Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Parliament Approves Three Vice-Presidents

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 12 May 2011 12:52

Totally out of the blue, and despite acrimonious exchanges between Iraqiyya and the State of Law bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi parliament today voted to approve three deputies to President Jalal Talabani: Adel Abd al-Mahdi of ISCI, Tareq al-Hashemi of Iraqiyya, and Khudayr al-Khuzaie of State of Law.

This latest development must be characterised first and foremost as a triumph for Maliki. State of Law had been talking about three deputies as far back as in November 2010. Reactions from other parties against the State of Law candidate for filling one of the three posts, Khudayr al-Khuzaie, were sufficiently strong that some of them even proposed changing the number and criteria for electing the largely ceremonial vice-presidents: The Kurds, in particular, had invested much energy in demanding a single deputyship, to be filled by a Turkmen (and according to some, a female Turkmen.) But today, the three-person formula prevailed and Khuzaie was duly elected in the single vote that was held on the batch of deputies – again a victory for State of Law, which had insisted on this mechanism.

Exactly why Maliki was able to pull this off at this point remains unclear and the reactions from Iraqiyya have yet to materialise. Today’s parliament session was attended by 235 out of a total of 325 deputies. That same assembly also voted to sack Ayyad al-Kinani, who is thought to have Sadrist sympathies, from the independent electoral commission (IHEC). It is noteworthy that at least two Sadrist female deputies have criticised today’s vote. Conspiracy theorists will probably rush to mention the fact that the Iranian foreign minister is in town, posing smilingly with his Iraqi Kurdish counterpart.

Whatever the exact reason, the decision certainly signifies that Maliki is still able to get the decisions he wants in the Iraqi parliament, and probably gives him enhanced confidence  when it comes to getting the security ministers confirmed. With the vice-presidential deputies confirmed and talk about the strategic policy council fading into the background, those ministries represent the final remaining issue in the government-formation process that started in November 2010.

18 Responses to “Parliament Approves Three Vice-Presidents”

  1. I wonder if Joe will call this a triumph!

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, my guess it that Joe is more focused on getting a defence minister to negotiate with right now! But there is more bad news today: No parliament until 12 June.

    It is also noteworthy that the parliamentary record gives a much lower number of deputies present today than the first news reports. It says only 185 persons attended. Also, Abd al-Hussein Abtan of ISCI says the Sadrists and ISCI did not vote in favour of the presidential deputies (they disapprove of Khuzaie and some were supporting the Kurdish project of a single Turkmen deputy), meaning that the deputies must have been approved mainly with the support of State of Law and presumably the Kurds. (The parliamentary record only mentions a “majority of the 185 deputies present” and fails to indicate the size of that majority.) It would be interesting to know how many Iraqiyya deputies voted in favour – any insights, Santana perhaps?

  3. Santana said


    The vote took longer than expected and my sources informed me that it was a three way deal SoL, Iraqiya and the Kurds(that accepted due to covert U.S pressure to get the cabinet done ASAP) and also Iraqiya very grudgingly accepted but only on a “Quid pro quo” basis….Allawi decided since the VP posts are somewhat ceremonial then by agreeing to a third will not make much difference in the scheme of things….so he nodded his approval that Iraqiya agree to this “one basket vote” in return for more weight to be given to Iraqiya in June on the Security Ministers selections cuz that matters much more….now- exactly what kind of “weight” Iraqiya gets remains to be seen and Maliki is known for renegging….anyway- if I hear what it is I will post it here.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Thanks, Santana. I was watching Nujayfi’s press conference on TV last night and found it interesting that he seemed so happy about the whole affair. Like “crisis solved”. The tendency seen yesterday of the Sadrists leading the criticism seems confirmed in news report out of Iraq today. But as said before, Maliki cannot alienate the Sadrists and Iraqiyya at the same time if he wishes to have his security ministers confirmed (or a new SOFA for that matter).

    In other news, Buratha reports that Jalal al-Din al-Saghir of ISCI/Badr will be back in parliament as the replacement for Abd al-Mahdi! Nevermind that this is totally unconstitutional since Saghir ran as a candidate in Dahuk (where he obtained exactly 67 personal votes) and Abd al-Mahdi ran in Dhi Qar. As described earlier, parliament seems perfectly happy about placing itself above the constitution in these matters.

  5. Tom said

    Santana, do you really believe that the Kurds voted for the VP slate because of US pressure to complete government formation? These three VP posts are meaningless positions, why would any other country care?

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Tom, I’ll let Santana answer for himself, but it is noteworthy that despite their purely ceremonial character, the VP positions had developed into a stumbling block in the political process more generally because the parties invested so much energy and prestige in them. So even if the importance ascribed to these positions by the parties is pretty irrational, it probably made sense just to get it over with, which means that the focus can now turn to the security minstries, or so one hopes.

    It is quite remarkable how Sadrist and ISCI criticism of the vote, partly with reference to the marjaiyya in Najaf, has been the most prominent trend over the last couple of days. Some of them even talked about a conspiracy involving Nujayfi, Jaafari and Fuad Masum of the Kurdish alliance! To the USG this could be good news in terms of a potential basis for obtaining some kind of extension of their military presence, except that many members of Iraqiyya keep talking tough on the issue not least in order to try to give Maliki a hard time.

  7. Muhaned H. Alsemawee said

    Daer Reidar
    Yesterday in Jalal al-Din al-Saghir official website he denies news which referred he will be back to parliament .
    see below

    and this another independent agency

  8. Santana said

    Thanks Reidar- Your answer to Tom is exactly what I was gonna say -if not better. Tom- The USG ignored the issue of VPs for months now and when Jeffrey made his rounds in Baghdad it was purely an “Iraqi issue” and as far as State dept was concerned,bringing it up made as much sense as “breasts on a bull” till the USG woke up and saw that it is a big deal and as Reidar pointed out-taking focus away from more important matters….. that’s when Feltman picked up the phone and talked to Mam Jalal.

  9. Salah said

    These three VP posts are meaningless positions, why would any other country care

    One thing need to be addressed here, although its worthless to US, for internal folks is very important as Reidar mentions, they think its more prestigious roll for sectarian parties, so US “may” have or “somehow” involved of swapping “Tit-for-tat” as US have more important interests in Iraq than give this “tat” to those who are most happy with it but they don’t care about other things.

  10. Reidar Visser said

    There is an interesting report regarding the process that led up to the vote on a single batch of presidential deputies here:

    Basically, it suggests that Maliki and independents in the National Alliance plus the Kurds managed to obtain the support of parts of Iraqiyya for the deal (Hashemi’s Tajdid and Mustaqbal which I think belongs to Zafir al-Ani are highlighted more than once in the report). At the same time, Sami al-Askari of the National Alliance and normally close to Maliki indicates his displeasure about how the political leaders ignored the advice of the marjaiyya in the matter (which was supposedly against the multiplication of superfluous government offices), which in turn shows Maliki’s dilemma as he tries to balance Iraqiyya and his own Shiite Islamists.

  11. Ali M said

    Reidar, Tariq Al-Hashimi and Adel Abdul Mahdi retain their old positions even though their parties (Tajdeed and ISCI) didn’t do particularly well compared to other components of their lists. Is it possible that in Iraq, it is quite difficult to remove senior politicians from office, for some reason? Jalal Talabani is still president, Nouri Al-Maliki is still PM despite the many objections in the government formation period. Is Iraqi politics still influeced by its history which had a president for life and permanent ministers.

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, I totally agree with that. Or, I would go even further than that and say that the bonds forged in exile and in the period of the governing council in 2003-2004 appear exceedingly difficult to break.

  13. mostafa said

    Hi Reidar
    Do you think that what showed up on the newswire about Khuzaie signing 1400 execution sentences has anything to do with SLA’s insistence on electing him as a 3rd vice-president?

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Mostafa, interestingly, Shakir al-Darraji is also from State of Law! Some of the criticism against Khuzaie seems to be clearly politically motivated (the tit for tat between him and Mulla Haydar of Iraqiyya is a case in point) but this one is from what is supposed to be his own people…

  15. mostafa said

    but is that true?
    do you think that the government was waiting for somebody to sign all these executions? And do you think they are gonna execute 1400 people soon?

  16. Reidar Visser said

    The story itself seems a bit on the wild side as far as I can tell but its provenance is interesting nonetheless!

  17. Tom said

    “Iraq’s Vice-President Abdul-Mahdi resigns due to wish of Supreme Islamic Council’s Leadership”;
    ( Perhaps this is an indication of the relative merit of the Vice Presidency.

  18. Reidar Visser said

    Yes. There will be a separate post on this.

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