Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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.

8 Responses to “Deciding the Rules of the Game: A New Bylaws Committee”

  1. Zaid said

    The COR has been trying to revise its bylaws for at least three years now. There have various drafts and committees. The matter has been debated on too many occasions to count. International organisations and NGOs have organised debates and workshops of their own to promote the matter. All these efforts eventually failed. That was problematic as the existing bylaws are in serious need of reform. There are areas of ambiguity, there is lack of clarity, and there are inefficiencies that have hampered the COR’s capacity to legislate and to exercise oversight. It was one of the issues that came to symbolise the COR’s inability to perform its duties. I don’t have any information as to what exactly is being considered by this new bylaws committee, but there is no question that there is room for improvement.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    The composition of the committee has now been reported. It is interesting that quite a few heavy-weights are represented. Abbas al-Bayati from NA is heading the committee, and Khalid al-Atiyya and Bahaa al-Aaraji are also members. The Kurds have people like Khalid Shwani and Muhsin al-Sadun (and Latif Mustafa represents Gorran, separately from the Kurdish coalition). Iraqiyya members include Izz al-Din al-Dawla, Abd al-Karim al-Samarraie and Aliya Nusayf. Badr have people like Hadi al-Amiri and Abd al-Hussein Abtan.

  3. Zaid said

    It is interesting. It is also bad news. Many of these people are the same individuals that made the COR’s previous term so dysfunctional. The fact that this committee is populated by political heavy-weights as opposed to people that could potentially suggest some good ideas about how the COR could improve its performance suggests that this initiative is heading in the wrong direction, and that it will end up being more about carving up political spoils than ensuring an effective process.

  4. Santana said

    Zaid- Bad news is an understatement….we are better off without it if this is who’s gonna be running it. ….Bahaa Al-Aaaraji ??? In Iraq they say “How do you know if Bahaa is lying”? and the answer is “if his lips are moving”… the way…everyone should read this…..

  5. Santana,
    An excellent article.. except it portrays the “exclusionary politics that dominated Iraq from 2003 to 2009” as only an Iraqi problem now. Exclusive democracy is the design of the GWB era politics, it will take US action to reverse its bad effects.

  6. IMARK said

    Reidar et al,
    I am sorry, I just don’t understand why and how is it possible that Iraqi nationalists (including ‘Sunnies’, ‘Shiites’ and seculars from Iraqiyya and the core of Maliki’s block) would be outflanked by minority sectarian/ethnic parties in the formed committee?
    I expected that when it comes to plicies and legislations, the Iraqiyya and Maliki’s block will find much in common. Am I dreaming?

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Imark, those are the sad realities of the new political dynamics. Maliki is relying basically on Shiite politicians with a sectarian orientation plus the Kurds. That kind of politicians are always very good at getting access to key committees, like in October 2006 when Sunnis and opposition Shiites (Fadila, Sadrists and independents) were almost strong enough to stop the federalism law. In the constitutional review committee that was formed as part of the deal back then (to some extent as a result of “compromise” with Iraqiyya politicians who naively voted in favour of the federalism bill), people like Bayati came to dominate.

  8. Kermanshahi said

    IMARK, the problem is who you classify as nationalist. Not even all of al-Iraqiyya is Arab Nationalist, you got the ITF which are Turkish Nationalist/Kemalist (Turkish facism) and even seperatist, than you got Hashemi and bunch of Sunni secterianists using it as oppurtunity to push Sunni secterian interests forwards. As for al-Maliki and his bloc, al-Maliki has never been a Nationalist, he’s whatever suits him at the moment. After the fallout with ISCI he became Nationalist for a while cause it suited him, he could form local governments with Iraqiyya parties and it was supposed to gain him Sunni votes, than for the election he switched back to Shi’a secterianist since it enabled him to ban Iraqiyya candidates and join up with Shi’a Islamists to unconstitutionally regain the Prime Ministership eventhough he lost the election and so that he could gain sympathy from the Kurds. His bloc has some nationalists in it, but also many Islamists, but in the end most will follow him and State of Law is ready is ready to switch it’s ideology and political allegeance whenever it suits al-Maliki’s political game of doing whatver he wants and screwing over all other parties (Sadr, ISCI, Fadhila, Iraqiyya, Kurds, Tawafuq, Awakening coalitions + all neighbouring countries), while using them against each other to remain in power.

    Is the new government good. No. Is it “not that bad,” no it’s afwull. But sadly al-Maliki fooled everyone again, Sadr acting like the dumbest of them all (he completely ruined the political process and not because the Iranians pressured him to join, that’s a myth created by Arab Nationalists, the Iranians pressured him not to join, but he did so anyway, after wasting like 6 months of everybody’s time).

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