Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Still No Agreement on Iraq’s Parliamentary Membership

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 9 September 2011 19:13

Almost one and a half years after the general elections of 7 March 2010 and amid persistent street protests, the Iraqi parliament can’t even make up its mind as to who exactly are its 325 members.

According to the official agenda, yesterday’s session of parliament should have been devoted to such momentous issues as the second reading of the strategic policy council bill and a vote on the amended parliamentary bylaws. As expected, none of this was actually addressed by the almost half-empty assembly. However, the presidency of the parliament announced an interesting forthcoming vote – supposedly on Saturday – on the “correctness of the parliamentary membership” of three deputies, namely Jawad al-Shuhayli, Jamal al-Gaylani and Ammar Hasan Abd Ali.

The reason there are controversies relating to these and other members of parliament is the replacement process that began in December 2010 for deputies that became promoted to ministers in the second Maliki government. That process continued well into 2011, and in March came to involve a vote on 7 deputies whose membership qualifications were in doubt. Lately, the matter has been further complicated by the fact that more than a dozen ministers lost their cabinet jobs as a result of the government downsizing and have demanded they get their old jobs as deputies back!

Of the three cases in the latest batch of controversies, that of Shuhayli should be the most straightforward one. Shuhayli replaced Nassar al-Rubayie, a Sadrist. While Shuhayli is from the same list, he ran as a candidate in Dahuk,  where there are almost no Shiites and where he received almost no votes. For his part, Rubayie was a candidate in Baghdad. In other words, in this case, the law on replacement of deputies has clearly been violated since the legal (and constitutionally mandated) balance between governorates has been upset.  Except, of course, that parliament has already once overruled the law and the constitution in this very case since Shuhayli was included in the March vote – and unlike in the case of Jawad al-Bulani, no one appealed the decision. The question is, can parliament challenge it own previous decision in this way, effectively acting as its own appeal court? Article 52 of the contitution just says that the parliament rules, with a two-thirds absolute majority, on the correctness of its own membership within 30 days of a complaint having been presented. That decision, in turn, is subject to a 30-day appeals period before the federal supreme court.

For his part, Gaylani was given a compensatory seat after Abd al-Karim al-Samarraie of Salahaddin and the Iraqiyya became minister of science and technology. Gaylani was also a Salahaddin candidate and he comes from the same Tajdid bloc as Samarraie. There should be no problems whatsoever with this replacement, and if someone is trying to challenge it on the basis of number of personal votes, they are simply misreading the deputy replacement law (which was written at a time when there were no personal votes in the electoral system).

Perhaps the most problematic of the three will be the third case, of Ammar Hasan Abd Ali. He was given the seat of Jamal al-Batikh from Wasit who became minister of state in February and was a member of Iraqiyya for Wasit at the time. That decision has been challenged by members of Batikh’s breakaway faction, White Iraqiyya, which was formed just around the time Batikh obtained his portfolio. The question is whether the new bloc – which did not even exist at the time of the elections – can now claim ownership of the seat based on post-election realities.

In other words, even though this third replacement is correct as far as the governorate balance of deputies is concerned, the question is whether the replacement law is unambiguous as far as sub-entities within the same electoral list are concerned. The answer, alas, is no. The law is unclear because it refers to a bloc (kutla), a list (qa’ima) and entity (kiyan) in the same sentence, without making it perfectly clear which of them shall be used as point of departure for reckoning the replacement entitlements. One way of reasoning that could be made relevant here would be that since the only entity every voter knew about at the time of the elections was the list (qa’ima), it would make sense to use that as point of departure for replacements, instead of using kutlas which come and go, and which voters may be unaware about.

These three cases come on top of the problem of what to do with the ministers of state that unceremoniously lost their jobs in the recent government downsizing. Recently, the consultative state assembly ruled that these ministers should be given their deputy jobs back, despite the absence of any modalities governing that kind of eventuality in the deputy replacement law. Symptomatically, perhaps, this ruling has yet to be published by the Iraqi ministry of justice.

What all of this may serve to remind us is that in a context of immature institutions in the middle of a democratic transition, calling for new elections might well prove counterproductive. Maybe a far better option would be for parliament to try to work for reform from within. And maybe the best place to start would be two pieces of legislation that are actually called for in the constitution: The federal supreme court bill and the special constitutional revision that has yet to be implemented.

12 Responses to “Still No Agreement on Iraq’s Parliamentary Membership”

  1. What a mess. Thank you for taking the time to figure this out so I don’t have to. One thing to add – I believe Abd al-Karim al-Sammarai is from Accord Front/IIP, not Tajdid. Although he is Iraqiya now given the recent merger.

  2. Santana said

    Reidar- you wrote-

    “What all of this may serve to remind us is that in a context of immature institutions in the middle of a democratic transition, calling for new elections might well prove counterproductive”.

    May I ask where you got the perception that Iraq “is in the middle of a democratic transition” ???? I was laughing so hard ! the biggest problem we have in the current forming of the government is lack of any democracy whatsoever.


  3. Reidar Visser said

    Kirk, I think he may have moved from Tawafuq to Tajdid with Hashemi – they certainly seem to acknowledge him as one of theirs now:

    اكد عضو مجلس النواب عن كتلة العراقية والقيادي في قائمة تجديد عبد الكريم السامرائي

    That’s a clipping from a December 2010 statement from the Tajdid website,

    Santana, you are becoming too cynical, Iraq is still a little more competitive than Iran and Syria, if only just, no?

  4. Santana said

    Abdulkarim Alsammarraiee is Tajdeed.

  5. Santana said

    Thanks Reidar- I now see where you are getting your “Democracy measuring stick”…yeah- sure if Syria and Iran are the litmus test then I guess in comparison we have a true blue Jeffersonian Democracy….

    Sorry – there I go again with my cynicism.


  6. observer said

    Hope spring is eternal, i suppose. You really give credibility to the “complaint” aspect of the ruling on Bolani!. I suppose we have to play the game and pretend that there is a real basis of the selective application of the rules. Let us see what justification they will bring about to allow the other 10 PM’s keep their seats, AND return the former ministers to their seats. Maybe they can raise the number of MP’s so that the threshold for a no confidence motion is suddenly higher than 163. I await with amusement to find how they can go around the rules and bend them to the satisfaction of the majority ;).

    there are high level meetings in Suli the last couple of days i presume in preparation for Barham’s upcoming visit to Baghdad and I am sure it has to do with the pronouncements by Barzani on the oil law. The Kurds know how to negotiate but do the promises ever (EVER) get delivered on? To be seen.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Will be interesting to see how KRG-Baghdad relations evolve in the next couple of weeks. Unsurprisingly, Shahristani is taking his usual tough line on the Kurdish oil deals:

    But the new aspect is that people close to Maliki were apparently quite pissed off by what Barzani said.

  8. When did Samarai switch? If they were saying that last December, maybe he switched back. I know I’ve read sources recently saying he was with Accord, although Iraqi media do get these things wrong. But Accord’s own site says so last month: Accord Front Website

  9. observer said

    On the negotiations – My understanding is that Barham’s visit has been pushed back a bit maybe because the differences between Kurds and Maliki are getting bigger not smaller. I suppose the Maliki coalition is thinking that it is strong enough to withstand any threat of no confidence motion. This will make the Kurds job harder and may force their hands – not sure what route they will take, hard ass or conciliatory? It depends on the position of the US also. So let us stand by and see how it develops.

    I have been thinking about the killing of Hadi. Given that hadi was tortured and that the Baghdad security team has been putting barriers and preventing people form driving to tahreer, etc., etc. – I mean here is that they are really afraid of any demonstration no matter how small…Wouldn’t you expect the security to put Hadi under physical surveillance? How can there be no witnesses? Something stinks to high heaven. I would not be inclined to believe that Maliki would be stupid enough to issue an order to liquidate Hadi, but I would not be surprised that the thugs that run his security would be this stupid. But then again doesn’t the responsibility lay at the feet of Maliki for having a security apparatus created, and responsible directly to him? Wouldn’t torture and beatings stop by an order from Maliki? Or is the security apparatus “independent”? He can not have it both ways – create a security apparatus that reports to him and claim he is not responsible for their actions – can he? Just accumulating more evidence for you about the autocratic and undemocratic tendencies of Maliki and Da3wa.

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Kirk, I think the official Tawafuq website could be a different one (the one you link to seems more news-oriented), and again it describes Samarraie as Tajdid (this one from March 2010).

    So we have it from both Tajdid and Tawafuq websites in 2010 after he switched once in 2009. I am not sure there has been any switch back and forth after that. As you say, Iraqi media are sometimes not very faithful in describing these things, and I think we can also rely on Santana as an authoritative source.

    Observer, I totally agree that there is something paranoid about the way the Iraqi security forces handle these demonstrations, as was the case in February as well. Back then, of course, Maliki et al. described the whole thing as a “Baathist conspiracy” before the marjaiyya told them the demonstrations were in fact legitimate!

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Just for the record lest we forget about this issue. Today, parliament put a vote on the membership of Gaylani and Ammar Hasan Abd Ali on the agenda but failed to actually carry it through thanks to a lack of quorum (a two-thirds absolute majority, or 216 votes, is required.) The name of Shuhayli had apparently disappeared from the agenda again, either because he has already been voted on once in March, or due to some backroom deal with the bloc involved (the Sadrists).

    اعلن النائب عن ائتلاف دولة القانون محمود الحسن عن تأجيل مجلس النواب التصويت على صحة عضوية النائبين جمال شيبان الكيلاني وعمار حسن ، لعدم اكتمال النصاب.

    وقال :” ان الدستور اشترط اغلبية خاصة لاتمام التصويت وهي ثلثا اعضاء مجلس النواب ، وهذا الامر لم يتحقق”.

    وكان مجلس النواب قد ضمن ضمن فقرات جدول اعماله التصويت على صحة عضوية النائب جمال شيبان حمادي الكيلاني والنائب عمار حسن عبد علي من القائمة العراقية بسبب وجود اشكالات حول عضويتهما كونها من النواب الذي شغلوا مقاعد الوزراء والمسؤولين”.

    وشغل القاضي عمار حسن عبد علي الغرباوي من القائمة العراقية في محافظة واسط ، مقعد النائب السابق جمال البطيخ في مجلس النواب بعد اشغال الاخير حقيبة وزارة الدولة لشؤون العشائر كون الغرباوي الاحتياط الاول في القائمة العراقية عن واسط حيث كان قد حصل على 4 الاف و 282 صوتا في الانتخابات النيابية ضمن القائمة العراقية .

  12. observer said

    discussion in Kuridstan between allawi and barzani and salih. Interesting developments to come. If the US has given up on Maliki – maybe they will allow a motion of no confidence. as to whether Iran is going to allow UIA to splinter – remains to be seen. Maliki better make sure that the files are clean from incrementing evidence. Even if it is only a close call and he escapes with the skin of his teeth, it maybe a good wake up call to start fighting corruption in his won ranks and work on services. He is going to need a miracle in the next elections if he proceeds along the same old lines.

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