Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for August 8th, 2011

Another Change to the Second Maliki Government as the Electricity Minister Is Sacked

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 8 August 2011 11:58

Late Saturday night Iraqi newswires began spreading the news: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had sacked the electricity minister, Raad Shalal al-Ani, because of allegations of questionable deals with foreign companies and corruption. Most media commentators reported the act as a fait accompli and began discussing possible successors to replace Ani.

But hold your horses for a moment: Can Maliki really do that? Sack a minister without consulting with anyone else? No, he can’t. Not without the consent of the parliament, as detailed in article 78 of the Iraqi constitution.

In other words, the sacking of the electricity minister must be confirmed by parliament in one of its sessions this week. It should be stressed that when Iraqiyya (the political bloc to which the sacked minister belongs) expressed a desire for a different procedure, namely, for the minister to appear before parliament to answer questions before being relieved of his duties by way of an absolute-majority vote, they are not being entirely faithful to the constitution either. It is true that this kind of procedure exists as an option in the constitution, but it is mainly intended as an avenue for parliamentary initiatives to get rid of a minister. By way of contrast, the prime minister’s prerogative to sack a minister does not stipulate any hearing in parliament, and a simple majority will suffice to confirm the action of the PM.

Given the serious charges of  large-scale, fictitious dealings with two foreign companies, it seems highly likely that parliament will opt to confirm Maliki’s actions in this case.  For the time being, deputy prime minister Hussein al-Shahristani will reportedly take care of the vacant portfolio, which is interesting given the recent government downsizing and reports that Maliki is seeking to give all three deputy PMs more specific portfolios. Any permanent move by Shahristani to electricity would in turn affect the contentious balance between Maliki’s State of Law coalition and Iraqiyya in the current government.

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