Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for November 22nd, 2010

Deciding the Rules of the Game: A New Bylaws Committee

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 22 November 2010 21:31

Iraqiyya scored a significant victory when it secured the speakership of parliament on 11 November. The speakership offers a position of real importance and, not least, the possibility to speak, thereby giving Iraqiyya the opportunity to frame the Iraqi debate and position itself on the political stage in a way that no amount of “power-sharing” in the sense of owning ministries or fanciful “presidencies”, real or imagined, can do. So far every indication is that Usama al-Nujayfi will not shy away from using the speakership to speak with an independent voice in a way that can offer a corrective to the executive branch of government.

At the same time, as happened previously, developments in parliament since it began meeting regularly after Eid al-Adha suggest that Iraqiyya is continuing to give away leverage in matters relating to parliamentary procedure. Back in June, it surrendered  the temporary speakership of the inaugural session to the Kurdistan Alliance when Hasan al-Alawi declined the offer of chairing the first meeting as the oldest member of the assembly. On 11 November, after Nujayfi had received the speakership of the parliament, he himself proceeded to stage an election of the new president of the republic (Jalal Talabani) that was followed by a nomination of Nuri al-Maliki even though there was no compelling reason for him to do so since those items were not on the agenda of the session. As a result, Iraqiyya lost leverage and their current calls for legislation to be passed for the national council for political strategies prior to a vote of confidence on a new government is up against resistance from opponents who prefer to frame the budget for 2011 as a more pressing issue. And who of course know that contrary to the situation in the first minutes after Nujayfi was charged with the speakership, the votes of Iraqiyya are not strictly speaking needed anymore.

Today saw yet another development that can be classified as belonging to this category of challenges to the prospect of Iraqiyya dominating the national assembly. In a meeting chaired not by Nujayfi but by his deputy speaker, Qusay al-Suhayl (though apparently with Nujayfi’s consent), a meeting of political leaders agreed on the composition of a new committee that will revisit the existing bylaws of the Iraqi parliament passed in 2006. The committee will be chaired by Suhayl, who is a Sadrist.

The bylaws of parliament are interesting because the rules that were adopted in 2006 to some extent imposed a greater degree of power-sharing on the speakership “presidency” than called for by the constitution. True, the constitution includes the toxic number “3” in its stipulation for a speaker with two deputies, thus conjuring up the image of ethno-sectarian quotas to be held by Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. However, those three are not to be elected in a single list (like the transitional presidency council in the 2005–2010 period), and the constitution also does not impose any consensus requirement for the collective speakership. This is where the bylaws for 2006 go further in defining a considerable degree of collective decision-making for the speakership in terms of setting the agenda, although the speaker is still to some extent able to act independently, for example by calling a meeting of parliament without reference to the two others (however the two others operating together can do the same thing).

It is interesting that the idea that the new parliament had to adopt a new set of bylaws has gained traction. This is not something that is dictated by the constitution itself. Nonetheless, an attempt will now be made at revisiting the rules of the game, which could potentially influence even the new-won speakership of parliament held by Iraqiyya. In that respect, the composition of the new committee announced today is interesting in itself: It consists reportedly of no less than 7 members of the National Alliance (the coalition of Maliki, Chalabi, Jaafari and the Sadrists), 4 from Iraqiyya, 3 from the Kurdistan Alliance, 1 from the Tawafuq/Unity of Iraq bloc, 1 from Gorran plus minority representatives of the Yazidis and the Chistians.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 8 Comments »