Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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.

32 Responses to “Question Time!”

  1. Christian121 said

    So is it CONFIRMED yet that PM Maliki will be questioned with the no confidence vote after it,or is the opposition still (to use a quaint American expression) “dicking around” in their hatred for the man for rhetorical purposes?Methinks the idiots ought to just allow a vote ASAP and let the agony of this situation end already before Maliki(who remember is actually a good politician unlike some of these guys) picks off even more votes from his opposition.Just let the cards fall as they may and let democracy work already!No more pointless stupid lists!
    No need for more stereotypical do nothing parliaments right?

  2. Reidar Visser said

    You’re right, the Maliki critics are considering their options. Calling a questioning of the PM should be straightforward in theory since they effectively control the parliament presidency.

  3. bb said

    So Muqtada’s come back with new orders?

  4. Reidar Visser said

    The Daawa party say Muqtada and Maliki had a constructive call. Separately, Sadr also said having cabinet meetings in the provinces was a good idea. There is nothing official on the no confidence vote yet.

  5. NM said

    Have you watched this, Reidar?

    Amazing how Jazeera still thinks Alawi has 91 seats – something which Fatlawi had to point out is bogus. Despite her partisan ramblings, you have to agree her understanding and articulation of the constitutional and political circumstances are superior to her opponent’s. Is that something you see more broadly reflected between State of Law and its naysayers?

    Do you see snap elections being called at all (is that even possible?)? The talk of political majority is still doing the rounds.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Thanks, will watch it tomorrow, it’s past midnight where I am now. To be honest, I am worried about people on both sides who don’t stick to the rules of the game. The idea of just replacing Maliki with someone else without sacking the govt seemed unconstitutional, but at the same time I don’t have much sympathy for the commenters from State of Law who threaten a popular revolt if a no confidence goes ahead and succeeds in a democratic manner.

  7. bb said

    Reidar – it would be good if you could give a guide as to where the 165 votes NOT lined up on the pro NCV side are coming from?

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Well I think it is rather 150-160 in favour of no confidence and maybe 120-140 actively defending Maliki. Some people on both sides will always be absent from sessions.

    The pro-Maliki ones would be State of Law, still around 87 I think, Iraqiyya and Iraqiyya breakaway elements MPs who will not vote him out (perhaps 20-40), Badr & Fadila (ca 20 in total), and at least 3 Christians have said they won’t vote him out. I think ISCI might be reluctant to vote him out but not sure if they would support him very actively either.

  9. Santana said

    I agree with Christian on the “dicking around” comment but in reality it is Talabani and the scumbag Maliki that are “dicking-around”..Iraqiya has asked for a NCV all these wild numbers from both sides can be put to rest at COR…….it is obvious that all these delays are an indication that the PM and the President feel it could actually be pulled off- and if it happens ! then holy crap …… Iran will make their two stooges pay dearly.

  10. Talabani: “I will resign if forced to act against my convictions during this crisis”
    Al-Sumeria News

    President Jalal Talabani, on Saturday, threated to resign in the event that he is forced to change his convictions, as he reaffirmed that his [Presidential] position requires impartiality and unity of stances and stressed that he would not stand against the “Shia majority,” of which the Sadrist movement only represents a quarter of their number in parliament.

    Talabani said in a letter addressed to the President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani and President of the Iraqiyya List Iyad Allawi and the Speaker of Parliament Osama AlNujaifi, a copy of which was obtained by Al-Sumaria News, “The President of the Republic must remain neutral and the sponsor of national consensus and national unity. This is his [presidency’s] role that shall be lost if he takes sides with one party against another. So if the [political] conditions forced me to go against my convictions, I shall resign from the presidency of the Republic.”

    Talabani added that “I responded to the subject of withdrawing confidence from the Prime Minister during the consultative meeting held in Arbil, that my position is clear in that I am neutral by virtue of being President of the Republic, so I did not sign the paper drafted by Fakhri Karim, and neither did I allow for our fellow leaders to sign it.”

    Talabani added “however truth be said, I made a comment that the withdrawal of confidence should be used as a threat if the National Alliance or the Prime Minister do not adhere to the principles and frameworks set out the previous agreements, and [if so] that I would ask the Council of Representatives so that they may withdraw confidence.” He added that “your [Barazani, Allawi, and Nujaifi] letter received on June 10 of this month included misunderstandings and inaccuracies in the narrative and positions [that I took].”

    Talabani addressed the three leaders: “There is no doubt that you remember that the focus was on the need to implement the previous agreements and the new demands for reforms and partnership and not to monopolize power, but what happened is that you changed the whole subject to that of withdrawal of confidence, knowing full well that the National Alliance informed me officially, as did the Prime Minister, of their willingness to respect and implement the previous agreements and respect and consider all the paragraphs of the letter except the paragraph calling for a vote of no confidence. ”

    The President of the Republic clarified that “As a result of this, we called the parties to engage in serious dialogue [yet our call] was rejected by you, just as previously the Iraqiyya List boycotted the meetings of the Preparatory Committee for which Roz Nuri Shaways prepared the agenda for dialogue on behalf of the Kurdistan Alliance and thus you limited the subject solely on one point –a vote of no confidence.”

    Talabani added, “so it is not true what you have written, as your excellencies had taken a position that was evident even at the last meeting in Dukan, that you will send a letter of no-confidence if there were availability of 164 signatures by parliamentary deputies.”

    Talabani clarified that in the “Dukan meeting I was very clear with you and before that, with brother Massoud Barzani and brother Nechervan Barzani that I will not use my powers to call for the withdrawal of confidence,” pointing to their signature “of the text proposed by Massoud Barzani, to send a letter to parliament calling for an extraordinary session and leaving the freedom of the deputies to take the necessary decision in accordance with the Constitution. ”

    Talabani denied the accuracy of what was stated in their letter, which confirmed Talabani sending “signatures of 164 parliamentary deputies, but in fact, the messages which brother Azad Berwari gave me carried signatures of 160 deputies, and when the announcement was made on the formation of a presidential commission to scrutinize the signatures we were flooded with telegrams and telephone calls from deputies asking to have their signatures deleted”.

    Talabani stated that “the Presidential Commission had investigated and audited [the signature list], and what transpired after phone calls with the House of Representatives that 12 deputies requested the withdrawal of their signatures and two requested a ‘freeze’ on their signatures, and one deputy said that her signature is known to many by virtue of her being a physician, and requested that the ‘claim of her signature’ be cancelled. Talabani added that “If you calculate the number we find that there are 145 valid signatures, and if we added the signatures of 11 deputies of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), we would reach only 156 signatures.”

    The President of the Republic added that “for the duration of my presidency, no one could accuse me of being biased, but [in fact] to the Iraqiyya List and the blocks that fall under its banner as attested to by Messrs. Adel and Tarek, who heard from the Prime Minister that the latter accused me of siding with the Islamic Party, and as further evidence as I stood against the [de-baathification] of Messrs Saleh al-Mutlaq and Adnan Janabi and Iskandar Witwi –all of whom became parliamentarians after my repeated intervension [on their behalf].”

    Talabani added that “there are other points in your letter which we do not want to answer now but I urge you to ask those who are speaking on your behalf to refrain from provocation and insults against me when they claim that we carry out the commands of Iran earlier and then again — I inform you that I have the final answer which I will refrain from saying now.”

    Talabani renewed the “call to the national dialogue, upon which the National Alliance previously agreed with my written promise that I will stand by you if they refuse your requests to implement prior agreements and other legitimate requests, then I will wish the vote of no confidence from the Prime Minister.”

    Talabani added in his letter, “It is time to frankly address the real reasons which leads me to reject a request a vote of no confidence, which is not in defense of Mr. Nuri al-Maliki or endorsement of all his activities,” noting that “the post of the Prime Minister went to the Arab Shia majority represented by the National Alliance, and we may not impose upon them a vote of no confidence, but [rather] efforts must be made with them to persuade them to change their representative for Prime Minister.

    Talabani confirmed that he will not stand “against the Shia majority and its rights, and with all due respect to the Sadrist movement, they represent only a quarter of Shia legislators in Parliament,” pointing out that “the National Alliance, told me it is fully prepared to implement the agreements and to consider and respect the first and second Arbil papers.”

    The leader of the Iraqiyya List, Iyad Allawi, revealed on 12 June 2012 in an interview with the al-Hayat newspaper, that it was Talabani’s proposal to withdraw confidence from Al-Maliki during the first Arbil meeting held in late April, and that Talabani was reassuring in the Arbil meeting that he is able to withdraw confidence without going into the constitutional mechanisms. Allawi stressed that the forces opposed to Maliki continue to press for a no-confidence vote through questioning in parliament.

    Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki faces a vote of no confidence by a number of political blocs, most notably the Sadrists and the Iraqiyya List and the Kurdistan Alliance, while the State of Law Coalition, led by al-Maliki, warns of the consequences of this step on the political process.

    He [Allawi] also stressed in June 11, 2012, that he signed with his political partners who met in Arbil and Najaf, to change only the person of the prime minister, and not the government nor the candidate of the National Alliance, stating it as his defense against those who accuse him of destroying the Shia-majority National Alliance.

    The Iraqiyya List led by Iyad Allawi on the tenth of June accused the President of the Republic of “repudiating” the Constitution and diverting the names of 180 deputies who signed the vote of no confidence from the Prime Minister of the State of Law coalition, after [the President] announced on 9 June that he will not ask for a vote of no-confidence in Parliament due to a lack of a quorum after the withdrawal of 11 deputies.

    The country is witnessing a political crisis that some observers emphasize is on the rise in the unity of the differences between the political blocs, having transformed from a difference between the Iraqiyya List and the Rule of Law to the difference by the latter with the Kurdistan Alliance and the Sadrist and other movements and parties.

  11. Christian121 said

    On a related note:
    Muqtada Al Sadr has once again vomited out ridiculous conspiracy theories about us Americans,

    Apparently the good THREE HUNDRED(and what a “massive” number in a nation of 30 MILLION citizens) American trainers at the Baghdad Embassy were responsible for the recent obviously Al Qaeda perpetrated bombings of the Shiite Waqf facilities.

    Yep,this is exactly what Allawi needs trying to convince the Americans to support the NCV when the margins for success are sooooooooo excruciatingly close.I can just imagine the call some hack over at the PM’s office is having right now with some other equally stupid imbecile in the White House “You know that eeeeeevil Iranian puppet Muqtada Al Sadr?” “Yeah he’s for a NCV just like Allawi,you know.He also recently insulted your honor by saying you were responsible for the Shiite Waqf bombings” “You wouldn’t want that cruel sectarian bastard Sadr having a say in who’s the next PM besides your good buddy Maliki right guys?” “He’d be DESTABILIZING you know,ESPECIALLY for the REGION,would look pretty bad 5 months before an election if the government in Iraq just suddenly collapsed and MUQTADA AL SADR of all people had a hand in it,right?”On President OBAMA’S watch,pssssssh the Republicans would have an absolute FIELD DAY……..”

    Just get the damn NCV already before it’s too late.

    Also the Chaldean Movement have claimed that the NCV is a “national project”,whatever the hell that means.Doesn’t this conflict with the 3 Christian MP’s who said they weren’t to vote yes on a NCV some time ago?

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Briefly, with respect to the Chaldeans, no, as far as I am able to see from the parliament records, that movement has no MPs, so no direct consequences for the arithmetics of the assembly.

  13. bb said

    We haven’t heard from Observer for a few days. Is he en route to the Land of the Free?

  14. Christian121 said

    Al Hal Bloc has just said they now resupport the NCV.

  15. Reidar Visser said

    I think the report on the Karbuli/Hall faction of Iraqiyya recommitting to oust Maliki is interesting chiefly for the fact that it decisively identifies some of those who signed and then withdrew. They have been wavering on Maliki all the time and this may not be their last change of sides.

  16. Anna said

    A member of a coalition of state law Saad logistical said in an interview televised for the space belonging to the Islamic Dawa Party, led by al-Maliki: “The Iraqi lawyers resident in London told him that Allawi and Barzani agreed to form an oil company excluded businessman Thurs dagger of them, and this is what causes provoking the dispute between the leaders Iraq. ”
    For his part, warned the member of the Iraqi Adnan Aldenbos “state law” and his deputies from firing the statements are incorrect in asserting the right of his list to resort to the judiciary to take legal action against those he described as “purveyors of lies.”

  17. Reidar Visser said

    So here is the original source:
    The source, Saad al-Mutallabi, is prone to exaggeration and conspiracy theories so I would need to see confirmation of that alleged oil company established by Barzani and Allawi from more reliable sources.

    In general please do not paste Google translations that are clearly without any value (and if you absolutely have to please at least include the original Arabic link so that I don’t have to search for it).

  18. Anna said

    RV… So you object to snippets of information that can be found in English and Would rather research only be done in Arabic ..

    I think you will find alnaspaper is close if not right on the mark.. Allawi is known to be involved in many things suspect with his pal in London Hawramii. Why did Talabani and the PUK want to remove Hawramii , maybe all these deals are undermining Iraq as a whole and they do cause problems in other regions.

    If my snippet was of know value..then I have no objection to it being removed, but in the wider context of issue’s these things turn out to be very accurate.

  19. Reidar Visser said

    By “without value” I meant translations that are so garbled as to be positively illegible!

  20. @Hussain Qaragholi

    Talabani, in not siding with either party, is siding with Maliki by default.
    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” – Desmond Tutu.

    Also, while Talabani may not take a side, what about PUK MPs, who number how many Dr. Visser? About fifteen to twenty?

  21. Reidar Visser said

    Seerwan, there are around 12 PUK deputies and they have clearly been wavering on this issue. Talabani is not alone on the Kurdish side in being reluctant to withdraw confidence.

  22. faisalkadri said

    Thank you for citing Desmond Tutu, the quote should also be addressed to U.S. policy makers.

  23. Anna said

    RV I note a reputable site carrys the same information on Bazarni and Allawi carrying the news on them an Oil Company.. conflict of interests springs to my mind in the wider context of what is Happening in Iraq .

  24. Reidar Visser said

    It would certainly be sensational if true, but would it not be a little too obvious to do something like that?

  25. Santana said


    Barzani and Allawi are both extremely wealthy and don’t need to establish an Oil conglomerate or JV of some sort at this stage of their lives…so give it up…..the source of your story is Tehran anyway….oh sorry…I meant Daawa…..LOL….same shit.

  26. Anna said

    I perhaps know a little more than you think Santana..Bazarni is wealthy from his secret deals with Oil Companies and Mr Allawi is very close to him and his one of the reasons Jala Talbani is weary of them both in the current political climate. Everyone insisted Mr Galbraith was not involved in Oil Field contacts, but the truth came out.

    RV. I wonder how obvious that American Company Oil Companies package with Etamic was, maybe the same thing and same people behind the scenes .

    History will show in time. Now the present is more who as the moral high ground and is acting in line with the constitution , and who is acting in concert to further there own financial well being .

    If I went away from the subject.. I do apologize, but I do know the Kurdistan post is very reputable and out of the reach of the tow family’s in Kurdistan, and can express freedom of speech without the fear of being mistreated , like other Journalists .

  27. Mohammed said


    Out of curiosity, what is the source of Allawi’s extreme wealth? Observer implied that Iraqiya doesn’t have the money to bribe people…(and you said 10 difaatir = 100K USD would do the trick)?


  28. Apologies everyone, allow me to clarify my above comment (number 20). I didn’t mean Allawi or anyone allied with him are ranked alongside Tutu or that they are the just party fighting Maliki’s injustice.

    I meant it as Allawi & co. being the underdogs and Maliki being in the superior position regarding the No Confidence Vote.
    Talabani in not taking a side has automatically sided with Maliki, considering Maliki’s superior position.

  29. Santana said

    Mohamed and Anna-

    Who cares how rich Allawi is or what “deals ” are in the making??….I would rather have a “shabaan” (full) leader than Daawa with “joo3 qadeem” (old hunger) cuz the way they are acting now follows the Iraqi saying ..”Shaf ma shaf shaf KuXX umma wa ekhtera3″……the Daawa bunch are filling their coffers now …..maybe after they are full they can actually start caring about Iraq instead of filling their Beirut based bank accounts.

    Sorry Reidar- I promise -last off-topic answer about this from me…

  30. bb said

    Interesting detail in that Slate story on McGurk:

    “Back in 2006, near the height of sectarian violence in Iraq, Allawi had pressed U.S. officials to help him oust Maliki. McGurk advised him, perhaps more firmly than others, to back off. Though many U.S. officials were growing frustrated with Maliki, he was the country’s elected prime minister, and so they had to deal with him. Allawi, however, took McGurk’s stance as a sign of a pro-Shia bias—and he did so, very vocally, throughout McGurk’s time in Baghdad and apparently still does now.”

    Given that Allawi’s party had held out against Jaafari eventually stopping his nomination for PM, and then within 6 months, at height of insurgency, was teaming up with the sadrists to get Maliki ousted, the govt collapse and Bush’s Surge abandoned, and has campaigned ceaselessly with sadrists to bring Maliki down since then, sheds light on the question of “trust” from prime minister Maliki’s perspective?

  31. Christian121 said

    RV,A recent government decree has banned the wearing of beards in both police and soldiers.

    Is this relating to Maliki’s intrinsic independence from both theocratic Saudi Arabia and theocratic Iran and perhaps having to do with differentiating himself from both countries to consolidate a nationalist political footing(you mention how defectors from IS who don’t like Kurdish determination are making Maliki more independent from Iran in your past comments by joining him) or is this just a common sense stabilization and security issue?

    Sadr of course continues to be an idiot and considers this order a “sin” while Hamid Mutlaq defends it.So is this order a possible form of Maliki political savvy,dividing his opposition off at their ideological internal contradictions to benefit his nationalist standing or am I just being too paranoid about Maliki’s mind here?

  32. Reidar Visser said

    My sense is the ban on beards is mainly something inherited from the Baath days and that it is still supported by many of the leading military officials today. Of course, Maliki relies on many of these officers. So in sum, an example of how Maliki is pragmatically leaning on elements and culture that stem from the Baath era, although he rarely goes as far as defending this publicly. When threatened on Baathism, as in February 2010, State of Law gave in to all the other Shiite parties, though it is noteworthy that it is they (Sadr, Chalabi, ISCI) who have been driving de-Baathification, not Maliki.

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