Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for December 26th, 2010

Abd al-Mahdi in Tehran: Who Is Paying for This?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 26 December 2010 14:30

Those who prefer to adopt a jubilant narrative on the wonderful successes of Iraq in the post-2003 period often dwell at the supposed brilliance of the new, free press in the country. Free it may well be, at least to some extent, but competent it surely isn’t.

Take its collective failure when it comes to detecting some of the serious fraud involved in the illegal multiplication of vice-presidents of the country in the past two months. When Jalal Talabani was elected as president on 11 November this year without deputies, his two previous deputies, Adel Abd al-Mahdi of ISCI and Tariq al-Hashemi of Iraqiyya automatically lost their jobs. The reason for this is simple: The transitional presidency that lasted from 2005 and 2010 and the ordinary presidency are two entirely different political institutions: The first was a powerful instrument of consociational democracy that featured significant veto powers; the second is an ornamental institution only with largely ceremonial powers and no right to veto anything. No vice-presidents were elected on 11 November because the law for electing the presidential deputies has yet to be adopted. Unlike the modalities for electing the president – which have been spelt out in the constitution and made it possible to move ahead with the election of Talabani even though this too was legally somewhat dubious since no special law for electing him had been passed – neither the number nor the powers of the vice-presidents (not to speak of the method for their election) have been hammered out in the constitution. A law on the subject is currently snaking its way through parliament, with suggestions that there may be three or four deputies to Talabani in the next cycle. Like Talabani himself they will play a symbolic role only, but as of today the law has yet to be passed.

Despite this situation, Iraqi media keep referring to Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashemi as if they were still vice-presidents! For example, in a press release after the recent visit by Abd al-Mahdi to Tehran, Iraqi media covered the event as a visit by an Iraqi vice-president, echoing the tone of the press release from Abd al-Mahdi’s own office.

وقال بيان لمكتب عبد المهدي :” ان نائب رئيس الجمهورية التقى في طهران امس رئيس جمهورية ايران الاسلامية محمود احمدي نجاد ، حيث قدم الرئيس الايراني في بداية اللقاء التهاني والتبريكات بمناسبة تشكيل الحكومة العراقية الجديدة ، معتبرا ذلك خطوة مهمة لتحقيق الامن والاستقرار في العراق والمنطقة عموما “.

Of course, the fact that his office keeps referring to Abd al-Mahdi in this way may simply be down to sheer hubris among his staff. But the failure of the Iraqi press to detect the problem is more serious and relates to a fundamental failure in understanding the nature of the political system in the country. Not least, it begs the question of who paid for the trip! It may well be that Abd al-Mahdi eventually gets elected as (ordinary) vice-president, perhaps already in a few weeks’ time. But right now, unless he has taken the oath as an ordinary deputy of parliament, he is a private citizen. In times of austerity the Iraqi electorate has the right to know whether government funds are being used to finance travel activity on the part of non-existing vice presidents or not.

Posted in Iranian influence in Iraq, Iraqi constitutional issues | 26 Comments »