For the First Time in Iraq, a Large Field of Presidential Candidates
Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 18:29
Following positive developments in the Iraqi parliament and the election of a speaker before agreement was reached on other leadership positions, it is more difficult to evaluate the posturing for the next constitutional step: The election of the largely ceremonial office of president of the Iraqi republic.
For starters, one very key source has been missing for days: The Iraqi parliament website is offline, apparently due to a site subscriber or maintenance issue, or potentially to do with a hacker attack. This prevents insights into the details of the ongoing process of nominations to the presidential post. According to the law on candidacies for the Iraqi presidency, candidates are to submit their credentials within 3 days of the election of the speaker, whereupon the speaker has got 3 days to vet them for formal criteria (age, education, de-Baathification status etc.) before a 3-day appeals window for any candidate excluded during the initial part of the process.
With reports about a large field of candidates, it is very hard to see how due process can be adhered to if an attempt to elect the president will go ahead on Wednesday, as press reports suggest. The legal adviser of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Tareq Harb, has suggested that adherence to the timelines of proper vetting and appeal possibilities would take us to August before the president could be voted on. By way of contrast, though, at a presser today, the new parliament speaker, Salim al-Jibburi, nonetheless seemed to indicate that a vote would go ahead, which seems legally problematic.
Beyond the legal aspects, there are potential procedural and practical problems relating to the election of the next president following the explosion of the number of candidates this year. In 2006, Jalal Talabani was the only candidate. In 2010 he was challenged by a judge who presented himself as candidate in protest against the ethno-sectarian spoils system. This year, more than 100 candidates have reportedly registered. As a minimum, a vote on the president should feature a brief presentation of each candidate, meaning the presentation of candidates alone could go on for many, many hours. And we have not even talked about vice presidents yet.
Of course, in general terms, the multiplication of presidential candidates seems to be a good thing for Iraq’s democracy. There has been a stark contrast between the official discourse of a contest that is open to all (with potential contestants ranging from those who protest the ethno-sectarian spoils system to those who think the presidency should go to particular ethnicities), and what many believed was the real decision-making process: A debate about which member of the Kurdish PUK party should have the job, maybe with the president of the Kurdish region as supreme arbiter. Eventually, though, even the PUK came up with more than one candidate as both Fuad Masum and Barham Salih registered for potential election.
In general the greater openness seems to have a liberating effect on Iraqi politics – if only Iraqi politicians can manage to find a way of getting the formalities right for the much larger field of presidential candidates than usual.
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