Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court Publishes the Bulani Ruling

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 19:40

Iraq appears to have entered a late-Ramadan lull, but today the country’s supreme court at least had the whereabouts to make public the full details of its ruling that deprived former interior minister Jawad al-Bulani of his parliamentary seat.

The ruling itself is broadly as one could expect. The award earlier this year of a replacement seat to Bulani after Ali al-Sajri of the same Unity of Iraq coalition was promoted to minister of state and its confirmation by parliament in March clearly represented a violation of the law on replacement of deputies since a candidate from Baghdad thereby replaced a deputy from Salahaddin and upset the constitutionally mandated balance of deputies between the Iraqi governorates. It is the governorate argument that recurs in the ruling of the court, but it is interesting that the judges also at one point emphasised that Bulani in fact belonged to a different component (mukawwin) of the Unity of Iraq bloc (kutla) than Sajri (Bulani is from the Constitutional Party and Sajri from Tayyar al-Shaab), thereby raising a problem that could become of interest in future cases: Is it the electoral coalition or the individual list that should be used as point of departure for reckoning replacement entitlements? The replacement law from 2006 is ambiguous on this point.

What the ruling also makes clear is that the reason Bulani lost his seat was that politicians from Salahhadin actively filed appeals against the parliamentary decision to approve the replacement candidates in March. Presumably the reason why the court has not stripped two Shiite Islamist replacement deputies of their seats despite their cases being identical to Bulani’s is simply that no one from Bagdhad complained that Jawad al-Shuhayli, a Sadrist who ran in Dahuk, was given one of their seats and that Muhammad al-Hindawi, from Fadila in Karbala, was given another. Of course, Baghdad already has far more deputies than anyone else and its politics is less transparent, but the whole story inevitably smacks of a certain degree of backroom dealing inside the Shiite alliance.

Apparently, then, in this case the court has simply responded to those complaints that were filed and ignored the other cases. It will be interesting to see if new cases arise in the case of the ex-ministers that were given back their seats in parliament by the consultative assembly of the state. The details of that ruling, which is arguably far more controversial, have yet to be published so far.

7 Responses to “The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court Publishes the Bulani Ruling”

  1. observer said

    so is this an excuse for selective application of the law – “that others have not complained”? and did they address the timing of the ruling and why it took three months? and why were they ruled expeditiously in addressing Maliki’s request for “interpretation” of the “winning block”? Just wondering when is it that Iraq experts will acknowledge the fact that the law is still in the hands of the executive and they have a long way to go before independence is achieved.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, you may have seen from previous posts that I have often been critical of the court’s susceptibility to political pressures. Here, I’m just chronicling the rationale provided by the court, which appears to be the absence of other complaints: Salahaddin deputies protested the parliament decision; others did not. In this case I really think the focus should be on why those other protests failed to materialise in the first place, i.e. internal pressures within the Shiite alliance.

    I agree the proccrastination by the court in this important case looks bad, for sure.

  3. observer said

    it is not just the procrastination that is at issue. The whole neutrality of it is in question. The winning block is a prime example of not only the timing, but even the tilt despite having evidence from the commission charged with the drafting of the constitution clearly defining the winning bloc as the largest electoral block not the parliamentary block. Be that as it may. Why is the law not applied to all. Even if there are no “complaints”, does it make it right. I happen to agree that the replacement should be from the govern orate but the requirement that there shoudl be a complaint is rather silly and a fig leaf at best. Presumebly if somebody wants to complain now, he/she have lost that right or can it be invoked at will? Or can a complaint be filed by the voter (any voter) or is it only a losing candidate that has that right? What the idiots do not see is that once a precedence is set, it can be used by their opponents in a future (or maybe they are so confident that they can come up with another fig leaf to justify another interpretation). Bottom line there is no respect for neither the spirit or the letter of the law. The law is a tool in the hand of the executive just like it was under Saddam.

    One thought just occurred to me – the idea that a session can be declared open for 7 months is so out out there – can I file a complaint the next time they do this? Or do I not have a legal standing in the court as a voter? They did the trick of open session twice already.

    By the way, the court that ruled – does not have jurisdiction but somehow nobody is questioning the legality. I passed this to Bolani but he does not seem to want to challenge on the base of jurisdiction. I will see him after the eid and see what he is up to.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, I’m grateful for your comments on this as I share your sense that these matters are important. However, a couple of points of disagreement:

    I think it is a myth that there was constitutional clarity on the definition of the biggest bloc, and the video provided by Iraqiyya was certainly inconclusive. I wrote about this at

    The constitution says parliament votes on the legality of its membership by an absolute majority and this decision can be appealed to the federal supreme court within 30 days. In other words, the constitution requires pro-active action and I cannot see that the court is to blame for not taking action pursuant to non-existing appeals!

    Re jurisdiction, I wonder whether you might be mixing up the ruling by the majlis shura al-dawla on the restoration as deputies of the ministers who lost their jobs in the shrinking of the govt (unconstitutionally, as I have pointed out), where there is a true question of jurisdiction?

  5. observer said

    I was not involved in the discussions and I am speaking from memory – so i maybe on thin ice. The ruling itself was not a mastery in clarity in it self. From memory, the ruling said that it can be interpreted as the largest electoral block OR the largest parliamentary block. Of course they used the largest parliamentary block. Now what I said is that they are too stupid to recognize that the same ruling can be used by others against them. here is a scenario that they have not calculated for when they chose to interpret the way they did. Here is how it goes. A coalition can be created to declare no confidence. Then that means that there is no need to run a new elections, as presumably the coalition that is put together to pull the no confidence motion through can nominate its own PM . Or are they depenign on the President being the one that has to nominate another PM? It is just too messy and they are inventing it as they go.

    Anyway, this constitution has to be revised and re-written…. but when?\

  6. Reidar Visser said

    The ruling said that the PM should be nominated by the biggest bloc in parliament, whether that is a bloc formed prior to the elections or after the elections.

    I agree that now that it has been done once, it establishes a reasonably clear precedent. Any aspiring bloc aiming for the premiership would certainly still need to win the cooperation of the president, but that president can in practice be elected by less than a two-thirds majority since a run-off where the highest vote-getter wins is allowed per the constitution if no candidate manages to reach the threshold in the first round.

    I also totally agree that the constitution must be revised, but certainly not in the way that was attempted by the previous parliament…

  7. Nathaniel said

    Also, a note on judicial action,

    At least in the United States, I can’t think of a single example where a court ruled on an issue on its own initiative. I’m fairly certain that it’s standard operating procedure for courts to rule only on issues that are brought to them. As such, it’s not surprising they haven’t ruled on the other cases. What is surprising is that, given the political fragmentation in Iraq, that no one raised an objection to those replacements as well!


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