Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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.

6 Responses to “Maliki Attempts Pre-Emptive Action Against Nujayfi”

  1. NM said

    Don’t you think all the talk on ousting Maliki and Nujayfi will just lead to each one cancelling the other out, without any significant consequence?

  2. Lars said

    I think we are about to see, that the US is taking the gloves off;

    The sources for «home» that extensive consultations are still taking place in the Green Zone, between representatives of the National Alliance and senior envoys from the Office of Joseph Biden, U.S. Vice President, to resolve disputes between Avriqa Iraqis, according to the scenario developed by the Committee on the crisis in the U.S. National Security Council, which includes a special division in Iraq.

    The sources pointed out that the U.S. position was informed all parties to the meeting of Irbil, in telephone calls made by Biden personally with the President of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, the head of the list of Iraq, Iyad Allawi, that the plan will be from 3 steps, the first host Maliki, instead of questioning, and his declaration written pledges to apply agreements Arbil 2010, which established his government, and the statement of the consultative meeting in Arbil, Najaf, then so they can be a national meeting to announce the names of the ministers of baggage security, especially the defense, after being asked the U.S. side of the Iraqi leader Iyad Allawi, the nomination of 3 names new no nominate someone to name the former minister of defense, and the announcement of political reforms package and service, then end up national meeting to support the Maliki government as a government of «national partnership».

  3. Reidar Visser said

    NM, I agree neither no confidence vote is likely to succeed.

    Lars, if you look at the original Arabic source

    it alleges that the USG is putting pressure on the Maliki critics to accept a deal where the appointment of the defence ministry is the only tangible result. If not, the article says, Washington will support Maliki’s “government of the political majority” idea.

    In general, I think the article overplays both the ability and the intention of the USG to micro-manage the Iraqi scene. Unsurprising that the sources are unnamed.

  4. Lars said

    RV, yes it´s quite symptomatic, how the number of anonymous sources (and secret agreements)seems to increase in these days. But who can wonder with the freedom of press apparently being targeted by the government.
    I agree with your view about overplay of US intention, as far as the public domain, but I wouldn´t be surprised, that things look a bit different behind the scene.

    BAGHDAD, April 18 (AKnews) – There is a secret agreement between the Kurdish Blocs Coalition (KBC), Iraqiya List and the Ahrar bloc to nominate the first deputy chairman of the Council of Representatives Qusay al-Suhail to replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister, according to a political source.

    The source, who requested anonymity, told AKnews that a delegation from Iraqiya and Ahrar bloc belonging to the Sadrist movement will head to the Kurdistan Region during the next few days to decide about this issue.

  5. NM said

    Also, does the fact that the new IHEC board members are currently being chosen mean that Maliki has gotten his way? In a previous post you said he was keen to get new commissioners prior to elections.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    I wouldn’t say Maliki has achieved what he wants on IHEC until a new board is actually in place. The current board is clearly something of a remnant from a period when he had less power.

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