Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Maliki the Strongman Preparing for Ramadan

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 27 July 2011 12:58

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in his capacity as acting minister for interior, has issued detailed instructions for how Iraqi restaurants should adapt to the coming holy month of Ramadan which starts in early August. Most importantly, all eateries – with a few exceptions such  as those clearly relating to the tourism industry – are to be closed from dawn to dusk.

Maliki’s order raise interesting questions about centre-periphery relations in today’s Iraq. On previous occasions, the governorates have often taken the lead in defining holidays locally, as seen in the many local holidays that have been declared in various Shiite-majority governorates relating to Shiite festivities. Also, rules governing the sale of alcohol have largely been determined at the governorate level, as seen in places like Basra, Najaf, Wasit. Previously, the governorate of Baghdad have also passed special measures relating to Ramadan.

It will be interesting to see how Maliki’s order goes down across the country. Will it be observed nationwide? What about the Kurdistan federal region (KRG), which is sometimes seen as a more liberal enclave? Of course, Iraq’s constitution does not specify any particular role for the central government in regulating commerce locally, meaning that residual powers in this respect rests with federal regions and governorates alike. But in practice – and to some extent with reference to the more restrictive provincial powers law of 2008 – a more centralistic spirit has prevailed in relations between Baghdad and the governorates than between Baghdad and the KRG during the past few years.

Maliki’s order comes at the time when decisions on two other issues deemed important by him seem imminent. The first is the sacking of the independent elections commission (IHEC), supposedly to be voted on by parliament tomorrow. Maliki supporters now says he enjoys the support of all the Shiite parties enrolled in the National Alliance, but ISCI, in particular, has been critical of the move, which is natural given its own strong influence in IHEC. Then, on Saturday, Maliki is supposed to address parliament on the issue of reducing the size of his government. Once more, the solution he is proposing do not seem to have a clear constitutional basis (according the Iraqi constitution, each ministers will have to be voted out through an individual vote of confidence).

The parliamentary response in both of these questions will serve as an indicator of Maliki’s parliamentary strength as the pressing issue of the security ministers continues to linger.

19 Responses to “Maliki the Strongman Preparing for Ramadan”

  1. Thaqalain said

    Malik or Iraq rules are not honoured even inside GZ, Military Forts situated on Iraqi/KRG territory. Bars are running by US Mercenaries openly and all sort of colorful business is ongoing with the patronage of highly influential Iraqi Officials starting from BIAP to GZ to Basra, whether Americans leave or not , enough damage is done morally, socially, economically.
    Your posts are proof that Iraq is already a shattered and broken country. Iraq days are not going to change and all profits earned from its oil fields investments are invested outside Iraq,Middle Class Iraqis already left and abandoned Iraq. Now its an American and British Colony and they want to keep Al-Maliki & Shahrestani to continue holding its empire rule.There is no opposition in Iraq’s demodictacy, everybody wants to be a minister or VP. Americans already have plan-2 in case they have to leave Iraq cosmetically for some interim period. They will once again indulge Iraq-Kuwait on Mobarak Port issue, which may escalate any time before SOFA expiry.

  2. Watch out for the timing of the sacking of IHEC. If Maliki succeeds then the US can expect its treaty extension to be ratified; he would have secured a friendly commission for future elections, if not then I believe an agreement over US stay is unlikely. Maliki is trading his medium term election advantage with the US’s short term stay.

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, I just saw a headline indicating that the Iraqiyya meeting today had concluded not to vote for the sacking of IHEC. To me this just symbolises that they will go to any length in order to be in conflict with Maliki. Iraqiyya has hardly any influence in the commission which is Kurd-ISCI-Fadila-Tawafuq-dominated. Do Iraqiyya leaders even remember the shameful role played by IHEC in the autumn of 2009 when they “lost” the election registers for Kirkuk, or subsequently during the de-Baathification campaign?

    Thaqalain, I’m afraid that unless your comments get slightly more empirical and connected to reality I’ll be unable to publish them.

  4. Reidar,
    I think the Sadrists’ position is more meaningful: They don’t want to agree to sack the IHEC until they know how the new commission will be appointed. As it stands, Maliki expects to basically appoint the new commission since the old one displeased him. I think the sacking of IHEC is a very significant event, on par with the extension of US forces, Iraqiya is right in being cautious about it.

  5. JWing said


    State of Law is the only real group pushing for the no confidence vote on the Election Commission. Maliki doesn’t have the votes to follow through with his threat because almost all of the other parties have said it’s just Maliki trying to get back at the Commission for the results of the 2010 vote.

  6. Joe,
    I wish you ‘re right, here is a link who says otherwise:

    Sacking IHEC is very serious, it’s probably the purpose of attaching all independent bodies to the prime minister’s office.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, I’m just wondering whether Fatlawi is punching above her weight here. Resistance in ISCI towards sacking the committee was considerable for example, so I think Maliki will need at least some Iraqiyya votes to get it through. There are reports that Talal al-Zubaie and a handful of others left today’s meeting in Iraqiyya unhappy about the new defence ministry candidates so there are of course some tensions there that Maliki could play on.

  8. Faisal,

    That Arabic-language article you linked to actually reinforces the point that this is just Maliki – the MP quoted there, Hanan al-Fatlawi, is from Maliki’s State of Law. The Sadrists, ISCI, Kurds and INM/Iraqiya are all against it. I can’t remember whether this vote has to be majority of present or absolute majority (163+), but the only way this will pass is if they can claim they only need a majority of those present and there just aren’t enough others there to outvote the SLC. But in those cases MPs who are opposed usually just walk out and void the quorum.

    Fatlawi is apparently quite close to Maliki – they have the same lawyer:

  9. JWing said


    I’m writing an article about the Election Commission right now. Maliki really doesn’t appear to have any support for this move outside of his own party. He needs 163 votes, and even by their own admission, State of Law claims to only have 114 lawmakers who signed a petition on the matter.

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Well, the session of parliament is underway now, reportedly with 240 deputies present and the IHEC item still on the agenda.

  11. observor said

    Here is the thinking. Once the election commission is out – there will be grid lock to replace the members. Sort of like the security portfolios.

    No new commission – no new elections. Now do you see where Maliki wants to go?

    Allawi was in parliament today that is how important it was to stop Maliki’s move.

  12. Jason said

    Observor, Point well taken. Any vote should include the full establishment of new IHEC members, duties, and responsibilities, all in one fell swoop. There should be no period of vacuum.

  13. Thaqalain said

    So it seems that US wants to make sure from weak fragile Premier Al-Maliki to fill slots of defence minister, and Chief of SPC , news just broke.
    MP for the Iraqi List, Ahmed Jubouri for “the approval of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to give the Ministry of Defence and Minister of one of his list by proxy.”

    He told all of Iraq [where] that “the President told the head of the list Iyad Allawi during his visit last night that the Prime Minister has agreed to assign the portfolio of the Ministry of Defense Agency to a minister of the Iraqi List, provided that the chosen is one of them until they agree on a candidate to the ministry.”

    He added, “Talabani told Allawi, Maliki also approved the formation of the National Council for the strategic policy and be executive and vote in Parliament.”

    He Jubouri that “Allawi expressed his willingness to attend the meeting of leaders of political blocs next Saturday after listening to these approvals by al-Maliki”.

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Well, those are the developments that happened two days ago and which I referred to in the comments section on the other post. Note that there is no mention of the United States whatsoever in the report; this appears to be your own personal contribution.

  15. Wladimir said

    In the Kurdistan region everything is closed from dawn to dusk. I don’t know if this is related to the decision of the PM or not, but last year it was not much different. Only ‘5-star’ hotels are exempt from the rules (open all day) and you can be arrested for drinking water or eating on the streets. I haven’t been to Ainkawa yet, but they say that even in the Christian part selling alcohol is forbidden. But they said that last year, and you could still buy alcohol.

    If you have time, maybe you can write something about Iran’s shelling and the discussion about this in the Iraqi parliament. So far only Iraqiyya list and the Kurdistan Alliance MPS talked about this in the parliament and a commission visited the border regions..

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Wladimir, many thanks for the input from the KRG areas. As far as the Iranian shelling is concerned, I find it interesting to see, firstly, how the Shiite parties are coming under pressure, as perhaps was expected, and second, the vocal nature of the Kurdish protests. It puts into critical perspective the way in which the Kurds are sometimes dismissed as Iranian stooges in Western debate about Iraq (of course, other call them Israeli stooges, which illustrates the dubious analysis at work here: they are probably not both!) Talabani is seen as relatively friendly to Iran, and I wonder whether the split on this issue follows party lines (KDP/PUK) or whether individuals from all sides engage in anti-Iranian rhetoric.

  17. Wladimir said

    Thanks. You are right that Iraqi politics is often painted in black and white images. Doesn’t matter if it’s about Kurdish political parties or Shiite parties.

    The trouble started when Barzani criticized Iran. Very informative interview about this issue here:

    Now apparently Sadrists called for suspension of ties with Iran. I didn’t hear anything about this in other media. So maybe it’s not true. But it could confirm the Iraqi nationalist ideology of Sadrists

  18. Reidar Visser said

    The Sadrist statement has been reproduced on Sadr sites that I consider representative of the “indigenous” Sadrist movement, such as this one:

    However, as far as I can see, it has not been published yet on websites that are sometimes described as “Sadrist” but in reality seem more pan-Shiite in orientation, like nahrainnet.

  19. Wladimir said

    Funny. Sadrists now denied the statement on their own site (where they published the article quoting AK news before).

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