In Salahaddin, a Confused Federalism Bid
Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 27 October 2011 17:38
The most spectacular fallout from the recent de-Baathification escalation is the declaration by the Salahaddin governorate council today that in protest against arrests and sackings they have “established Salahhadin as an administrative and economic region within a unified Iraq”.
The move, while clearly reflecting a growing pro-federal trend in some Sunni circles, is confused, illegal and unconstitutional. Firstly, the council does not have the powers to declare anything of this kind. A third of its members can submit a request to the government to hold a referendum on a federal status – but it is the people, not the politicians, that ultimately decide.
Second, the council members seem to be making a point that they had a two-thirds majority in the council. What are they trying to tell us? Is this a flawed attempt at reading the law on the formation of regions? The only special status granted to a bid by two-thirds of the governorate council members in the law on forming regions is that it will automatically trump alternate federal combinations in the case of multiple competing schemes (say, some want to have Mosul plus Salahaddin to form one region) and thus avoid a pre-referendum poll (istibyan).
It should be noted that similar language about “declaring regions” has previously noted in places like Maysan, but it later died down again. The bottom line is that the only thing the governorate council can do is to request a referendum. According to the law, the government should automatically (and promptly!) enable them to hold such a referendum by activating the elections commission. Basra and Wasit have submitted such requests in the past without any response from the central government. The significant aspect of the Salahhadin bid is that it could put more pressure on Maliki to allow federal referendums from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north. But to get there, the politicians of Salahhadin must first submit a request within the existing legal framework instead of making up their own procedures.
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