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The Federal Supreme Court Refuses to Intervene in the Parliament Replacement Issue

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 18:01

In a shameful and so far much-overlooked development, the Iraqi federal supreme court today issued a ruling to the effect that it has no jurisdiction in the question of the laws that govern replacement of candidates, leaving it to the politicians themselves to sort out the mess.

This is nonsensical for two reasons. Firstly, in appealing to article 93 regarding its own remit and its supposed inability to touch on issues that relate to interpretation of laws in force (as opposed to constitutional interpretation), the court has shown great inconsistency over the past years. In fact, in one of its landmark rulings in July 2009, the court actually used its interpretation of the law on governorates not organised in a region to overrule the constitution itself regarding parliamentary oversight of the governorate assemblies.

Secondly, and more importantly, the issue at hand is about far more than interpreting the replacement law on candidates from 2006. It is indeed about constitutional issues, since the principle of 1 deputy per 100,000 Iraqis is coming under threat when party leaderships dispose of replacement seats as they see fit and thereby upset the balance between governorates. The court also serves as a court of appeal in cases arising from the application of federal laws.

At any rate, by referring to a clause in the constitution that establishes a procedure for parliament to make decisions regarding the status of its own members by a two-thirds majority (which in turn can lead to an appeal to the federal supreme court), the court kicks the can a little further down the road and envisages possible involvement at a later stage. But it is totally unnecessary for the court to be so timid about the issue. Iraq needs a functioning parliament now, but instead of deciding on heads of parliamentary committees and its own bylaws, the assembly today declared another holiday which will last until 30 January, after the Shiite religious holiday of Arbain. Those waiting for a budget, security ministers, vice presidents or strategic councils will probably need to wait much longer than that.

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Parliament Replacement Update

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 7 January 2011 15:05

Thankfully, the numerous violations of both the relevant “replacement law” and the constitution in the process of substituting deputies who became ministers in the second Maliki government have prompted reactions in Iraqi political circles. So far, at least five cases have reportedly been submitted to the federal supreme court.

It seems fairly easy to predict the outcome of these cases as long as one can assume that the judiciary will manage to resist attempts at political pressure. Three of the five cases should lead to cancellation of the replacement candidates because both the law on replacement of deputies and the constitution are clearly violated since the seats have been given to candidates from different governorates than the deputies who left to become ministers. These are Daghir al-Musawi from Basra (replaced Hasan al-Sari from Maysan), Jawad Bulani from Baghdad (replaced Ali al-Sajri from Salahaddin) and Muhammad al-Hindawi (replaced Hassan al-Shammari who was a candidate in Dhi Qar). Musawi comes from the all-Shiite Iraqi National Alliance and is the longstanding leader of the controversial Sayyid al-Shuhada movement with particularly close ties to Iran; although he replaces someone who is from “Hizbollah in Iraq” with similarly close connections to Iran, the two formed a unified political entity in the March 2010 elections and are technically part of ISCI. Bulani is of course from Unity of Iraq but from a different sub-entity (the Constitutional Party) than Sajri, whereas both Hindawi and Shammari are from Fadila, meaning the intra-list dynamics will be unaffected either way in that case. But these replacements are likely to be invalidated by the court since the governorate balance gets affected and since the only exceptions to the principle of upholding the governorate quotas in the “replacement law” relate to 1.) cases where all the candidates of a list already have a seat in parliament; and 2.) cases where one of the seven compensation seats are being replaced. Additionally, this same logic should relate to two more cases not mentioned as having reached the federal supreme court yet, those of Jawad Ghanim Ali (a Sadrist who apparently was a candidate in Dahuk) and Salim al-Jibburi (who has taken a Salahaddin seat even though he was a Diyala candidate).

Two other reported cases are likely to be thrown out. There have been challenges to the seats given to Abdallah Khalaf Muhammad (Iraqiyya in Kirkuk) and Fuad Kazim al-Dawraki (State of Law in Karbala) from others within these alliances that got a higher number of personal votes. However, the number of personal votes has moral rather than legal significance in this case. The Iraqi elections commission previously attempted to introduce rules for computing the compensatory seats that would take into account personal votes and thereby make the system more in harmony with the open-list logic adopted in the revised elections law in 2009. However, on this they were overruled by the party leaderships and similarly no revised version of the “replacement law” better attuned to the open-list logic has been adopted. Accordingly, as of today, the party leaderships can decide the replacements themselves as long as they stick to the same governorate, as has been done in these two cases.

Meanwhile, these important questions have no chance of breaking through the Western mainstream media’s preferred dichotomy of Muqtada=bad; everything else=the charming wonders of Iraq’s interesting democracy. Today, enlisting the assistance of a “special correspondent”, the prestigious Washington Post wants us to believe that “Parliament met on 10 of the past 11 days to debate a national budget, nominees to head security ministries and other weighty topics”! The truth of the matter is that parliament hasn’t met since 27 December and won’t meet again until Sunday (9 January), but who are we to disturb the exciting narrative of the epic battle between Muqtada al-Sadr and the energetic US-sponsored democrats of the new Iraq?

Posted in Iraq parliament membership, Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 13 Comments »

Replacement Chaos in the Iraqi Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 30 December 2010 20:18

The announcement of the partial Maliki II government on 21 December has transformed Iraqi politics into something of a chaotic construction site. As of today, no one knows who will be in government or how many ministers will eventually be named.

Additionally, due to the stream of deputies hastily leaving parliament in search of greener pastures in the executive branch of government, no one any longer has a complete list of deputies. Based on lists of new ministers and old deputies it is clear that at least 20 of the 325 deputies in Iraqi parliament will need replacement, probably with more to come as ministries held as deputyships by existing ministers will get distributed. As of today, the Kurds have yet to name any replacements (and have also yet to name several of their ministers), and Iraqiyya has apparently named only around half of their 7 replacements. Some glaring errors in the way the names of new deputies have been rendered in official statements from the Iraqi parliament also make analysis of the information released so far somewhat problematic.

Still, around a dozen of the replacements can be identified with reasonable certainty, as indicated in the table below.

Name Kutla/List (Entity) Governorate Personal votes (97% count) Notes
Maysun al-Damluji Iraqiyya (Wifaq) Baghdad 560 Female
Faris Abd al-Aziz Iraqiyun/Iraqiyya (Iraqiyun) Nineveh 6,207
Jawad al-Bulani Wasat/Unity of Iraq (Constitutional Party) Baghdad 3,161 Supposedly replaces Ali al-Sajri
Khalid Sulayman Wasat/Unity of Iraq Anbar 3,710
Salim Abdallah Al-Jibburi Wasat/Tawafuq (IIP) Diyala 5,370 Replacement for Usama al-Tikriti
Fuad Kazim NA/State of Law Karbala 7,317
Haytham Ramadan al-Jibburi NA/State of Law Babel 6,193
Salah Abd al-Majid NA/State of Law Basra 9,256
Abd al-Sattar Abd al-Jabbar NA/INA (Sadrist) Baghdad 4,488 Fayli Kurd
Jawad Ghanim Ali NA/INA (Sadrist) Dahuk 3 Replaces Baghdad candidate
Muhammad Kazim al-Hindawi NA/INA (Fadila) Karbala 4,959 Replaces Baghdad candidate
Hussein Salman NA/INA (Fadila) Baghdad 4,007
Mina Mahdi Salih NA? INA (Badr) Diyala 2,511 Female

The legal framework governing these replacements is a law on replacement of parliamentary deputies from 2006. It has not been adjusted to the realities of an open-list system, and basically leaves it to the relevant party leaderships to find a replacement candidate from the non-winning candidates – in the case of governorate seats (i.e. the 310 seats allocated to governorates) it should be someone from the same governorate; if it relates to one of the seven compensation seats, it does not matter where the replacement comes from. The women quota can be ignored, but the law makes a mess of the terminology when it comes to the question of bloc versus registered entity as the relevant framework for making the replacement: It mixes up “bloc” (kutla), “list” (qa’ima) and “entity” (kiyan) within the same paragraph, thus making it unclear what basic unit shall be used as point of departure for reckoning the potential candidates for replacement.

That in turn highlights the numerous problems and indeed constitutional infractions that have been committed through the replacement so far. Of the players involved, State of Law seems to be following the rules reasonably well, with replacement candidates apparently being brought in from the relevant governorates from which ministers were recruited. Additionally, Jasim Muhammad Jaafar had been given a compensation seat so he can be replaced by a candidate from anywhere in the country. Fewer replacement candidates are known for Iraqiyya but legally they seem fine so far, and one wonders whether perhaps the new deputy reported as Abbad Khalaf Muhammad in the parliamentary records might in fact refer to Abdallah Khalaf Muhammad of Iraqiyya from Kirkuk. On the other hand, there are problems with the way in which both the Sadrists and Fadila apparently have brought in people from other governorates (Karbala and Dahuk) to replace some of their Baghdad candidates. If true, that would be unconstitutional since the principle of 1 deputy per 100,000 Iraqis would be in jeopardy. In particular, one wonders about bringing in Jawad Ali Ghanim  with no more than 3 personal votes in Dahuk!

The same problems apply to some of the replacements for Unity of Iraq and Tawafuq which have more recently joined to form a single parliamentary bloc. Already there have been protests in Salahaddin about the way in which Jawad al-Bulani, the interior minister and a Baghdad candidate for the Iraqi Constitutional Party within Unity of Iraq, was given a replacement seat for Ali al-Sajri of the “People’s Current” within Unity of Iraq in Salahaddin governorate. The same kind of reactions have materialised regarding Salim al-Jibburi, a Diyala candidate, although it is noteworthy that this replacement is not due to anyone becoming a minister but rather relates to the retirement of Usama al-Tikriti of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Salahaddin. The first of these cases, i.e. that of Bulani, not only touches on the governorate balance but also on the perpetual question of the coherence of the parliamentary blocs: Wasat had just been formed from Unity of Iraq and Tawafuq, but here the constituent parts of Unity of Iraq are quarrelling among themselves!

Posted in Iraq parliament membership, Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 2 Comments »