Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Emergency Session of Iraqi Parliament Indicates Size of Opposition to Maliki

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 7 January 2013 6:27

Yesterday’s attempted emergency session of the Iraqi parliament was an important expression of how recent weeks of protests in Iraq translate into parliamentary arithmetic.

Numbers and rumours regarding the participation of various blocs have been flying around ever since the beginning of Sunday’s session. Regarding the parties that refrained from attending, the reports have been quite consistent: The State of Law bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki along with Shiite Islamists allies Badr, Fadila and, somewhat more surprisingly perhaps since they are not in alliance for the local elections except in the north, the ISCI-Muwatin bloc of Ammar al-Hakim. Also the White bloc, a mostly Shiite breakaway faction from the secular-Sunni dominated Iraqiyya boycotted the session. That means there were MPs present from Iraqiyya (whose constituencies have played the dominant role in the recent protests), the Kurds, and the Sadrists.

The theoretical parliamentary strength of those who boycotted is around 130, whereas the attendants, again in theory, should at least be able to muster 170 deputies, above the 163 mark that signifies the quorum level in the Iraqi parliament. Things got quite ironic during the course of Sunday as press reports made headlines to the effect that the quest to reach quorum was so intense (and the general attendance level of the Iraqiyya deputies so poor) that even Iraqiyya leader Ayyad Allawi came to parliament (he usually doesn’t, although it is of course his a duty as an MP to attend). In the end, it wasn’t enough. According to the official parliamentary report, 161 deputies attended, just 2 MPs short of quorum. This is higher than some of the unofficial figures that circulated earlier on Sunday but of course not enough to hold a valid parliamentary session.

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As the Iraqi political scene heats up, it is equally important to be aware of the parameters within which the Iraqi parliament can affect change. Two supreme court rulings have hamstrung the parliament in significant ways over the last few years. The first, from July 2010,  considers the modalities of introducing a bill, in practice restricting the right of parliament to initiate legislation since every law needs to pass through the government before it can get voted on. The second, from May 2012, considers limitations on the right of parliament to question ministers.

It should be added here that even the act of cancelling a bill in practice requires a “legislative project” that needs to pass two readings. This is relevant since there was some talk about projected attempts to strike down anti-terror legislation with which many of the Anbar protestors are unhappy.

What this means in practice is that the most that can be expected by parliament in terms of radical anti-Maliki action in a hastily convened session like that of yesterday is passage of a bill that has already been through two readings, such as the vote on the supreme court bill, or perhaps the general amnesty law. Passage of such items in the absence of Maliki should not be excluded altogether despite yesterday’s failure. For example, on the amnesty law, Sadrists and Iraqiyya have seen eye to eye in the past. The successful vote for an electoral commission that was not to Maliki’s liking shows that there is no hard veto preventing the Shiite parties for going against Maliki as long as the subject matter is not the survival of the Shiite-led government as such.

Maliki allies have rightly pointed out that the idea of a “consultative” session is an innovation. Constitutionally, what happened Sunday was nothing more than a tea party. But the session was very close to achieving quorum, and Maliki should not exclude the possibility that similar attempts to score political points will be launched prior to the 20 April local elections. With a coalition-strategy that looks more sectarian than in 2009, he is also less immune to this kind of parliamentary action than he was earlier.

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6 Responses to “Emergency Session of Iraqi Parliament Indicates Size of Opposition to Maliki”

  1. bb said

    No doubt I’m being westernocentric here but how useless are these Iraqiyya deputies? As for it being notable that Allawi makes an appearance because he doesn’t often attend despite his duties as an MP. What kind of leadership is this? How can Iraqiyya or Allawi be taken seriously? Perhaps Observer could enlighten?

    All a bit depressing, actually Reidar.

  2. Zaid said

    This is looking increasingly like the period in 2009 when Samarai was speaker of parliament. at the time the craze was to impeach ministers who were close to parliament right before the elections. in the end, Maliki and his allies were able to reign parliament in.

  3. One wonders if the situation would be much different had the US done nothing, a wiser, and certainly cheaper and less deadly course

  4. Santana said

    Maliki controls 65 billion USD in cash guys ! In Iraq you can buy most if not all the PM members with a fraction of that !!…..and if Maliki or Daawa are ever threatened by a Sunni-Kurdish-Shiite alliance then Iran”s Qassem Sulaimani will get on the phone and tell Sadr, Hakim and any other Shiite that is not playing ball what would happen to them or their families if they allow a nationalistic move to succeed.

    The US has no leverage anymore in Iraq. The revolt that has started will pick up steam in a BIG way once that murderous Asad is gone…..then – not even Iran can save that SOB- scumbag -sectarian — Iranian agent -piece of shit Maliki.

  5. alshemary said

    I believe that the current “protests” have some strings attached representing by the agenda of Turkey and Qatar in creating the state of Muslims Brotherhood in our region to serve their interests.

  6. Reblogged this on bothandeach and commented:
    This is a reblog. Iraq’s Parliament even more dicey

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