Maliki, the Presidency, and Parliament in the Iraq PM Nomination Battle
Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 5 August 2014 17:06
The Iraqi parliament met briefly today. Since the parliament website remains offline, knowledge of the proceedings is a bit sketchy but it is being reported in media that 245 (out of 328) MPs debated the unfolding ISIS advance in the north as well as the election of new permanent parliamentary committees.
Perhaps more crucial than the actual session was what was being said by leading political figures before the meeting commenced, and how it was reported in Iraqi media. In particular, from reading Iraqi newswires one could get the impression that momentum was building towards some sort of crucial step regarding the naming of the next PM nominee, or at least defining which political bloc constitutes the largest one in parliament, with a right to have their candidate for PM nominated.
The underlying political dynamic in this seems clear. On the one hand, those who reject a third term for Maliki are trying to induce some sort of parliament action. A particularly interesting aspect of the ongoing maneouvering is the prominent role of former PM Jaafari who during the course of 24 hours during the weekend met with an impressive array of leaders outside his Shiite alliance, including most prominently President Fuad Masum plus Sunni leaders like Saleh al-Mutlak and leaders of the secular Iraq coalition like Qutayba al-Jibburi. It seems clear that Jaafari is now openly challenging Maliki and is trying to use forces outside the Shiite alliance to tip the balance.
On the other hand, Maliki’s supporters are apparently hunkering down, pointing to the closing window of the constitutional timeline for nominating the PM, whose deadline expires some time next week regardless of how holidays and Fridays are counted.
In all of this, it has to be said that Maliki has the Iraqi constitution on his side. It simply isn’t the business of parliament to opine on the biggest bloc, and certainly not to engage in formally naming one (tasmiya) as was reportedly attempted by some blocs today. In fact, no one is going to name the biggest bloc per se. Parliament can name the biggest bloc, the most beautiful bloc or the fiercest bloc for that matter but it would all be singularly irrelevant to the PM nomination process. The only naming that comes into play is that relating to the person of the PM nominee of the biggest bloc, and it is the job of the Iraqi president – some would say, one of the few real jobs of that position – to do that. President Fuad Masum’s reported complaints about “political pressure” to decide on a PM nominee cannot produce much sympathy since that’s an inconvenience that comes with his prestigious job!
Another parliament meeting is called for Thursday, the day before the formal deadline for naming the PM expires. Hopefully, parliament will not engage in more interventions in a matter which is simply beyond its constitutional jurisdiction. Naming the Iraqi PM nominee is not an act of parliament but a presidential prerogative. Any parliamentary action in the matter would be for purposes of public information about the presidential decision only.
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