Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for June, 2012

How to Dissolve the Iraqi Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 16:51

I am no expert in Arabic grammar, but the latest confusion caused by a threat by Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to dissolve parliament is so simple to clear up that even I can do it.

Apparently, the culprit are English versions of the Iraqi constitution and in particular a mistranslation of article 64 which governs dissolution of parliament. It  should be emphasized at first that English versions of the Iraqi constitution cannot be relied upon since there is not an official one. Their only value is that they may be faster to skim through for an English-speaking reader if something needs to be located fast, whereupon the relevant part of the Arabic version should be consulted.

Here is the relevant clause:

يُحل مجلس النواب، بالاغلبية المطلقة لعدد اعضائه، بناءً على طلبٍ من ثلث اعضائه، او طلبٍ من رئيس مجلس الوزراء وبموافقة رئيس الجمهورية

A reasonable translation would read roughly as follows:

“Parliament is dissolved by an absolute majority of its members, based upon a request from a third of its members or a request from the prime minister with the consent of the president.”

Now, possibly due to the insertion of several commas in the Arabic versions, some take this to read this as “parliament is dissolved by an absolute majority… or by a request from the prime minister with the consent of the president.”

That, of course, is dramatically different since it would leave the executive in a far stronger position vis-a-vis the legislature. But is it right? Thankfully, we do not need to rely on non-existing Arabic punctuation rules to serve as arbiter in this case. Instead, relax, breathe easy, and look for prepositions in the rump sentence in the case an attempt is made to link the dissolution of parliament directly to the prime ministerial request:

يُحل مجلس النواب او طلبٍ من رئيس مجلس الوزراء وبموافقة رئيس الجمهورية

“Parliament is dissolved or a request from the prime minister and the president.” The preposition “by” is lacking. This sentence wouldn’t have passed a secondary school exam and it cannot be the Iraqi constitution. If the intention had been to give the prime minister the right to dissolve parliament with the mere consent of the president, the relevant clause would instead have read aw bi talab min rais al-wuzara. But it doesn’t. It just says aw talab min rais al-wuzara. In this case, the preposition “by” (bi) is exclusively linked to the “absolute majority” of the parliament. This makes it clear that the prime ministerial involvement relates to the procedure for introducing the motion about parliamentary dissolution to parliament itself, which in turn will make the big decision about dissolving the assembly.

At any rate, at this point there is nothing to suggest that Maliki’s comments should be seen as anything more than a threat (“he feels forced/under pressure to call early elections”). There is no indication that there is even presidential agreement to introduce the motion to parliament, and in any case Maliki would probably be unlikely to win it. He probably knows it; why would Iraqi parliamentarians risk their own privileges?

The more worrying point is the tone of Maliki’s comments after meeting with Ibrahim al-Jaafari last Sunday, asking parliament to clean up its act before questioning him. There is much to suggest that Maliki may have a stronger parliamentary base than his opponents claim, but language of the kind he used over the weekend may soon lead to the evaporation over any additional support he got recently from disgruntled Iraqiyya MPs unhappy with the no confidence proposal.

Much as his enemies appear unable to muster the 163 votes needed to unseat him, Maliki needs to understand that the implication of this is not that he himself controls 163 votes in the Iraqi parliament.

Posted in Iraqi constitutional issues | 79 Comments »

Maliki Attempts Pre-Emptive Action Against Nujayfi

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 25 June 2012 12:31

Amid continued threats about a forthcoming questioning of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, allies of the Iraqi premier have embarked upon what seems to be a pre-emptive move: A formal request for a parliamentary debate on the performance of parliament speaker Usama al-Nujayfi, with a focus on alleged “constitutional infractions”.

To some extent, the Maliki-Nujayfi struggle has the characteristics of a tit for tat escalation between Maliki’s Shia Islamist State of Law bloc and Nujayfi’s secular and Sunni-backed Iraqiyya. True, this is not the first time there has been tension between the two. But it was mainly after the issue of a Maliki no confidence vote came on the agenda earlier this spring that the idea of sacking Nujayfi as parliament speaker became a prominent issue.

One aspect to keep in mind regarding a potential attempt to oust Nujayfi is that the modalities for getting rid of the parliament speaker are not covered in the Iraqi constitution. Instead, the process is governed by the law on the replacement of deputies. The relevant clause was adopted in a revision of that law in 2007 and the relevant paragraph says parliament can sack its speaker with an absolute majority based on a reasoned request from a third of its members.

In today’s Iraqi parliament, those numerical requirements translate into 163 MPs for sacking the speaker (same as for sacking the PM) and 109 for calling the vote. It is noteworthy that there is in some ways thus a stricter requirement for introducing a no confidence vote against the speaker than against the PM (the latter can be called by 65 members following questioning initiated by 25 MPs). It is noteworthy also that the request from State of Law that has been filed is not an outright call for a vote on his ouster. Rather they are talking about a debate “preparatory to his sacking”. No more than 25 signatures are required for this (61-7-b of the constitution).

Maliki allies say they will ask Nujayfi about his alleged interference in the Exxon Mobil issue in Nineveh as well as supposed “sectarian partition schemes” for Iraq. It may well be possible that State of Law can successfully call the vote for sacking Nujayfi by garnering the required 109 signatures for a vote. To succeed in reaching the 163 threshold for actually replacing him, however, they need a lot more votes than they currently have. In particular, many of those Iraqiyya deputies who supported Maliki on disputed territories may be reluctant to go as far as voting down their former ally Nujayfi. Indeed, the somewhat cumbersome approach of calling for a debate before a no confidence vote on the speaker (when no such preceding debate is legally speaking required before he can be sacked) seems to indicate that State of Law at present may be unable to even reach the 109 mark needed for a direct, straightforward vote on Nujayfi.

Perhaps the most important gain for Maliki in this relates to initiative. It is remarkable that despite all the talk about questioning Maliki, a formal request for doing so has yet to be filed. This in turn means that the issue of Nujayfi’s own status as parliament speaker is now higher up on the agenda and the parliament presidency will need to come up with reasons if they want to procrastinate the debate about Nujayfi.

Meanwhile, the most promising piece of news from the first session of parliament in the new parliamentary cycle that began on Saturday doubtless relates to numbers: No less than 248 out of 325 deputies showed up. This is actually very high for Iraq; hopefully it signifies a new trend. In today’s session parliament there are no major votes on the agenda but attendance figures are once more reported in the same high range around 250. If this trend stabilises, it could mean more in the long run than the continued war of words between Iraqiyya and State of Law.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 6 Comments »

A Smart Move by Maliki? Evoking the Stability Argument on KRG Foreign Oil Deals

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 21 June 2012 13:06

In an interesting move, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has asked President Barack Obama to intervene to stop Exxon Mobil activities in areas of Iraq controlled by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

Few details of the correspondence are known. The White House has officially acknowledged receipt of the letter from Maliki but has made no elaborate comment except saying it will reply in due course. A few comments on the letter by a Maliki adviser have been published by Reuters.

There is one interesting snippet of information in the reports that have emerged so far: Maliki is evoking Iraq’s “political stability” as an argument against Exxon’s operations in Kurdistan. As is well known, the conflict between Baghdad and the Kurds on oil concerns above all the right to sign deal with foreign companies generally. Additionally, some of the Exxon deals with the Kurds affect areas that are not only disputed between the KRG and Baghdad but even include territories that may well revert to the central government in a final border settlement.

The United States already has a series of executive orders in force relating to the stability of Iraq, though most of them target support for terrorism more specifically. Given Maliki’s choice of language, though, it is not inconceivable that he has in mind a logic similar to that embodied in a recent presidential executive order against US citizens threatening the stability of Yemen. That order contains deliberately vague language and could in theory apply to everything from Al-Qaeda to Aden separatism.

At any rate, by choosing the stability focus, Maliki is also addressing a latent contradiction in US policy on Iraq that is rarely addressed by the Americans themselves: Their continued support for Kurdish leaders with declared separatist agendas despite an official US desideratum of a unified Iraq within its sovereign borders.  The fact is that the United States (and many European nations) are treating Kurdish leader Masud Barzani pretty much as a head of state, with privileges during state visits etc. that few  other heads of federal entities worldwide can expect. This is precisely the sort of schizophrenic behaviour that has helped create unmanageable formulas for Iraqi governance like the Erbil agreement. It would be more honest of these players to make up their minds and either support full Kurdish independence or encourage policies that would provide for meaningful integration of the Kurdish region in an Iraqi federation.

Whether Washington will actually use this opportunity to rethink its Iraq policy remains to be seen. It is perhaps somewhat unrealistic given the presence of an able Kurdish lobby in DC that helped create the current contradictive policy in the first place. At the very least, though, Maliki will likely score some domestic points on the issue, of the same kind that recently endeared him to Sunni and secularist figures unhappy with how parts of the Iraqiyya leadership are cooperating with the Kurds, including in relation to Exxon Mobil in Nineveh.

Whether such support for Maliki’s KRG policy is sufficient to prevent any concerted action against him when the Iraqi parliament reconvenes on Saturday is still unclear. Already, some of Maliki’s enemies are accusing him of manipulating the security environment around parliament  with a view to intimidating political opponents (in particular this applies to the recent removal of the concrete barriers surrounding the national assembly). An unremarkable agenda for Saturday’s session appeared on the parliament website yesterday only to be removed again today. Parliament speaker Nujayfi now says he expects a request for a questioning of Maliki within two to three days, whereas Iraqi state television has indicated a forthcoming request for Maliki himself for an emergency session – possibly a pre-emptive move.

At any rate, with President Jalal Talabani having apparently abandoned the project of a presidential call for a no confidence vote, the conflict surrounding Maliki’s premiership is now likely to become a more long-drawn affair.

Posted in Kirkuk and Disputed Territories, Oil in Iraq, US policy in Iraq: Leverage issues | 37 Comments »

Question Time!

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 14 June 2012 17:55

Critics of Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Maliki must have realized it late yesterday, if not earlier: President Jalal Talabani is not going to call for a no confidence vote in Maliki. A letter from Talabani’s office made that perfectly clear, leaving Maliki’s critics with only one constitutional option for unseating the premier – a questioning before parliament, to be followed in a subsequent and separate session by a no confidence vote.

In theory, holding the questioning itself should be relatively easy. A mere 25 deputies can ask the parliament presidency (all of which is currently anti-Maliki) to summon the prime minister. The threshold for asking for a subsequent no confidence vote is also modest: A fifth of deputies, i.e. 65 deputies in the current 325-member assembly.

What should they ask about? This is where the problems begin. True to form, the critics of Maliki have reportedly formed no less than three committees to concoct nasty questions to be put to the premier in the parliamentary chamber. One story claims Bahaa al-Aaraji, the Sadrist, will lead the charge! Maliki’s allies cannot be any worse than this and have promised catalogues of files of alleged criminal wrongdoing on the part of Maliki’s enemies that will be revealed during the questioning, thereby changing the dynamics radically – or so goes their scenario, anyway.

Few critics of Maliki appear to have taken much notice of a potentially fateful ruling by the Iraqi supreme court some weeks ago which severely limited the ability of parliament to question ministers. Essentially, it said that in order for ministers to be summoned before parliament, there had to be a specific criminal charge or constitutional infraction for which to hold them accountable. The ruling amounted to nothing less than a rewriting of the Iraqi constitution since no such strings are attached there, but Iraqi media have been slow to respond. Importantly, whether one agrees with the ruling or not, it applies to ministers and prime ministers alike since they are all treated on an equal footing in the relevant article of the Iraqi constitution (61-7-c).

The ruling was given in the context of the potential questioning of a Maliki ally – Ali al-Adib who is minister for higher education – but some Maliki supporters are already discussing the potential questioning of the prime minister in a similar vein. The obvious question is, will the issues Maliki’s critics want to raise satisfy the new and more restrictive criteria of the supreme court for a parliamentary questioning (istijwab)?

Generally speaking, questions about corruption or the failure to provide services are unlikely to succeed simply on procedural grounds.

The subjects most likely to meet with approval as suitable subjects for questioning are constitutional infractions on the part of Maliki on very specific issues. Two stand out.

The first is the failure of the Iraqi cabinet, since 2010, to honour the requests for federalism referendums in numerous Iraqi governorates, including Basra, Wasit, Salahaddin and Diyala. This is a very clear violation of the law on forming regions that was adopted in 2006 and promulgated in 2008 as the implementation of article 118 of the constitution and which specifically charges the cabinet with putting the referendums in motion as soon as the requests have been received. At least in Sunni-dominated Diyala and parts of Salahaddin, the pro-federal currents seem to remain alive and as long as the federalists remembered to lodge a formal request for a referendum (alongside all the unnecessary bluster abut “declaring” themselves regions) there is plenty of reasons to ask Maliki what happened to those constitutionally mandated referendums. Article 78 of the constitution charges the PM with administering his cabinet so this is his responsibility.

A second subject that could count as a constitutional infraction by Maliki is the failure to have upper-level military officers by parliament, as demanded by article 80-5. Again, the PM has a special responsibility as administrator of the cabinet.

Whether any such questioning would succeed in a successful no confidence vote remains unclear. For a long time, the numbers in favour of a direct no confidence vote seemed exaggerated and masked the possibility that they might fall just short of the critical 163 absolute-majority mark. Additionally, if any of the two specific constitutional infractions discussed above come into play, Maliki may still be able to win over additional support. For example, on federalism, while the constitution is clear, Maliki might well be able to successfully use arguments of national unity in the assembly in the same way as he has used them in the governorates (where he has been able to mobilise Sunni tribes on an anti-federal basis and translate this into parliamentary support). In other words, Maliki’s implicit argument for violating the constitution for the sake of national unity may curry favour with at least some MPs.

The failure to have high-level military officials confirmed by parliament is an issue which more directly touches on the parliamentary oversight role that lies at the heart of any definition of democracy.  Again, though, Maliki might conceivably succeed in winning over at least some potential critics by referring to expediency and the abysmal efficiency record of the Iraqi parliament.

Whatever happens, it is to be hoped that the no confidence vote, if requested, is allowed to go ahead as long as there is adherence to the basic constitutional modalities. Whoever wins this process will come out strengthened if the rules of the game are followed as much as possible.

Parliament is scheduled to meet again on 21 June.

Posted in Iraqi constitutional issues | 32 Comments »

Just Exactly How Many Iraqi MPs Are Ready to Vote Out Maliki?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 10 June 2012 16:54

Late last night, Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, broke his long silence on exactly what is going on with the request for a no confidence vote against the country’s embattled premier, Nuri al-Maliki.

For a “clarification”, Talabani’s latest announcement was relatively convoluted. Still, there is now at least a few more pieces of information available. Firstly, Talabani is aware that the signature collection does not form part of the constitutional procedure for a presidential call for a no confidence vote. Good. Nonetheless, he has apparently asked for the signatures in advance in some kind of “intermediary” gesture to the opposing camps. His aim has probably been to establish whether there was basis for a no confidence vote to succeed.

In this more limited capacity – as an “opinion poll” if you will – the exercise is of course valid. It also has some interest for predicting the likely outcome of a vote in parliament. As said before, though, there are methodological issues here, relating in particular to the difference between collecting written signatures via email and actually having people come and vote in the parliament chamber. This aspect is salient given the overall low attendance level in the Iraqi parliament. Additionally, there is of course the question of whether Talabani’s office is up to the best standards in terms of analyzing this material. The public statement erroneously refers to “quorum” (nisab) instead of an “absolute majority” as the required threshold (they are both at 163 but no excuses for the confusion by the presidential “guardian of the constitution”) . We can only hope there are no more errors in the press release.

To the numbers reported by Talabani, then. Most wire services on Saturday said only 160 MPs had signed (thus falling just short of the required 163 needed to unseat Maliki) but a fine reading of the presidential statement  shows that is not necessarily the case. Instead, Talabani essentially gives us something of a mathematical equation:

–  160 signatures from Iraqiyya, the Kurdistan Alliance, the Sadrists and independent MPs were initially presented.

–  An unspecified number of signatures from the PUK (Talabani’s own Kurdish party) were subsequently added. This must be more than 3 (since at one point there were more than 163 signatures) but less than 12 (the total of PUK MPs in parliament, assuming none had signed off in the initial batch of 160).

–   Subsequently, 11 signatures were withdrawn and 2 were “suspended” (taliq, this is evidently so strange that even the Arabic statement uses quotation marks).

–  The remaining total is less than 163. (It should be noted that there is no word about falsification of signatures – a subject which consumed a good deal of heated exchanges in the press last week.)

Let us for the sake of the argument assume that the unknown variable here – the PUK signatures –  were at their highest possible value, i.e. 12 (the total of PUK representatives in the Iraqi parliament). That would leave us with a maximum of 160+12-11-2 signatures by people ready to vote down Maliki, i.e. 159. This is 4 less than the required threshold of 163,  in line with conservative estimates presented earlier in the week, and significantly lower than numbers reported by Maliki critics (ranging from 176 to 200 plus).  At the very maximum, there may at one point have been 172 signatures according to the Talabani statement. Add to this the fact that it is easier to make people sign via email than show up in parliament. (Maliki lawyer Tareq Harb appears to have his own count, arriving at 146 but apparently not counting the PUK signatures that were added at one point.)

The Maliki critics who met again at Erbil today have plenty to think about. They are apparently considering a plan B consisting of the second route to a no confidence vote: A questioning of the parliament (called for by 25 deputies) followed by a no confidence vote called for by 65 deputies. This approach is not without its problems: It takes longer, the supreme court recently issued a very biased ruling limiting the right to question ministers (it has received zero attention by the Iraqi press but was almost certainly calculated to also apply to the eventuality of a prime ministerial no confidence vote) and the support of President Talabani and his Kurdish PUK party would not be a given. In any case, its proponents should now stop trying to convince the Iraqi public about their number of signatures (today, Iraqiyya leaders boast they have 10 more up the sleeve and there are even reports about another futile attempt to send one more letter to Talabani to convince him). Instead, if they truly want a vote they should simply begin making specific steps towards a questioning of Maliki in parliament (which begins with a request by 25 deputies to the parliament speaker, Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya, to summon Maliki to the national assembly).

Talabani does not rule out this second option, of course. Indeed, in calling for the “national meeting” – the gathering of leaders sought by Maliki instead of a no confidence vote – he says this can be useful whether the premier is ousted or not. Maliki critics should however take notice how firmly Talabani asserts his own right to appoint any replacement in line with article 76 of the constitution by which is it his job to identify the candidate of the biggest bloc in parliament. If the Shiite alliance breaks down as a result of a no confidence vote in Maliki and the remnants fail to form alliances with Iraqiyya and the Kurds, that might in theory well be Maliki’s own State of Law bloc – and its premier candidate Maliki himself.

Posted in Iraq parliament membership, Iraqi constitutional issues | 22 Comments »

The United States Taking the Backseat in Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 7 June 2012 16:34

It hasn’t quite received the media attention it deserves: During the midst of the current political crisis in Iraq, the top US diplomat in Iraq, Ambassador James Jeffrey – a recurrent figure in many conspiracy theories about elaborate US schemes for dividing and ruling the region – must have sneaked out the back door.  Already, the Wall Street Journal is making interviews with him referring to his “past” tenure in Iraq, and this week, despite the climax of the moves to unseat Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Ibrahim al-Jaafari met with a chargé d’affaires from the biggest US embassy in the world.

Wait. Wasn’t Vice President Joe Biden, the Iraq czar of the Obama administration, supposed to show up in Baghdad instead this week? Well, that was what the rumours said but we’re at the end of the working week in Iraq and still no Joe in Baghdad. It seems the Iraqis – not without some sort of loud cheering from the Turks and the Iranians – will be sorting this one out themselves.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the next US ambassador in Iraq, was still in Washington in a Senate confirmation hearing answering rather lame question about oil production, Sunnis and Shiites and militant groups. It is however noteworthy that McGurk – who has been so strongly associated with US backing of Maliki that Iraqiyya promptly declared they would have nothing to do with him upon his nomination – was at pains to express an evenhanded approach to Iraqi politics. If a new PM were in place tomorrow, McGurk would deal with him as with Maliki. “Political agreements” [meaning Erbil] would be respected alongside the constitution. And McGurk went even further than that. Apparently reflecting the success of a strong Kurdish lobby in DC, he declared his desire to visit Kurdistan “every week” of his tenure if confirmed. That is a lot of travelling for a high-value US target in Iraq!

Of course, Ambassador Jeffrey must have left on or around 1 June, when his tenure was supposed to end anyway. Be that as it may, the net effect of all of this may be that the United States will have only a limited role in the question of whether Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will go or not. Right now, it actually seems an intra-Kurdish struggle with some considerable Iranian pressure on President Jalal Talabani is the main factor behind the delay of the introduction of a non-confidence vote against Maliki in the Iraqi parliament.

Some will no doubt see this kind of limited US involvement as a desirable process of disengagement. That would be a fair interpretation had it not been for the very glaring and physical image of the mega embassy of the Americans in Baghdad – the remnant of an altogether different vision of hands-on US involvement. (The Jeffrey remarks to the WSJ came in a story on the unexpected downsizing of the CIA presence in Iraq.)

It would be fair to talk about successful disengagement had it also not been for the fact that what remains of US fingers in Iraq seem to be working at counter-purpose. In the embassy as well as in the US Senate, discussion is still about Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds and the implementation of the Arbil agreement. There is complete failure to realize that all of this replicates the Iranian conceptual model of an ethno-sectarian Iraq and ultimately will serve to strengthen Iranian influence – or to partition the country into Iranian and Turkish zones of influence.

One result of recent developments in Iraq is that Sadrist criticism of Maliki has put pressure on Maliki to fix his relations with some other Shiite partners with whom relations had soured in recent years, such as ISCI, Badr and Fadila. It has also meant creating links to rather unsavoury circles in the former Sadrist militia Asaib Ahl al-Haqq. All of this plays into the hands of Iran.

Conversely, there is one recent development that might have the potential to solidify Iraqi independence versus the regional environment: The recent alliance between Maliki and Sunnis from the disputed territories in northern Iraq. Typically, this very significant trend for anyone who believes in an independent Iraq was never mentioned in the US Senate hearing on the next American ambassador to Iraq.

Posted in Sectarian master narrative, US policy in Iraq: Leverage issues | 48 Comments »

How to Sack an Iraqi Prime Minister

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 4 June 2012 23:53

There has been lot of talk about signatures in Iraq lately. Most of it has been focused on a supposed list of signatories who asked President Jalal Talabani to stage a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Late Monday, both Maliki and Talabani confirmed the existence of some kind of petition addressed to Talabani; Maliki asked Talabani to hand the document over to the judiciary to check it for possible forgeries.

There are lots of problems regarding these alleged signatures, both at the technical level and in the broader constitutional context. Technically speaking, no complete document of signatures has been published so far. Most press reports deal with aggregate numbers of deputies for each of the blocs opposing Maliki, with only a dozen of independent deputies specified by name. Numbers of signatories vary from 176 to 200 plus. Several of the named deputies, minority representatives and one Kurdish party (Goran) have subsequently protested at their inclusion or specifically rejected the idea of a no confidence vote in Maliki.

More importantly though, these signatures – whether they actually exist or not – have no legal or constitutional meaning.

There are two ways of asking for a no confidence vote under the Iraqi constitution.

Firstly, the president can do so. Importantly, in that case he can do so simply because he feels it is the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter whether he has the signature of every single deputy in the Iraqi parliament or none; it is his decision alone. It should be stressed that there is no need for the president to present any compelling rationale for having the vote.

Secondly, a fifth of the deputies in parliament (65 MPs) can also ask for a questioning of the PM (istijwab) followed by a no confidence vote. In that case, however, they need to go directly to the parliamentary speaker (Usama al-Nujayfi). Talabani has no role whatsoever in that route to a no confidence vote.

In both cases the vote itself will be settled by an absolute-majority vote of 163 deputies.

In other words, the signatures to Talabani are no more binding than an opinion poll. Talabani may listen to them if he likes to, or he may reject them and ask them to work via a 65-member petition instead.

This is why it is so strange that Maliki has initiated a procedure of investigation of these basically valueless signatures. One possible explanation is that he may want to pre-empt any possible move by his enemies through embarrassing them with charges of fraud. The different reports of the true number of signatories are in themselves perhaps an indication that there may be problems relating to the verification of some of the signatories. Even if this move by Maliki may seem quixotic, it is certainly preferable to the overtly politicised recent ruling by the supreme court on the right of parliament to question ministers.

Iraqiyya claims Talabani has already sent a request for a no confidence vote to Nujayfi. The only thing that is known officially is that Talabani has formed a committee to deal with the question of the authenticity of the signatures.

Constitutionally meaningless it all is, but maybe a way of winning time for players unsure about their next move?

Posted in Iraqi constitutional issues | 57 Comments »