The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki created headlines last week when he was quoted by some media sources as having said that the Iraqi parliament “has no right to legislate”. Recently, there has been an angry rebuff from parliamentary speaker Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya who identified legislation as the core task of the parliament. Some politicians are complaining that “relations between the legislature and the executive are deteriorating”, and the quarrel comes at a time when agreement between Maliki and Nujayfi remains key to getting the security ministries passed and having an honest debate about the question of the US presence in Iraq after 2011.
The reason for the misunderstanding is probably that Maliki’s statement may have been an attempt at paraphrasing ruling 43 by the Iraqi federal supreme court of 12 July 2010. In the case leading up to that ruling, the previous Maliki government had complained about parliament’s passage of a law passed by parliament that cut ties between the municipality and public works ministries and the governorates. Maliki’s lawyers furnished a multitude of legal arguments in defence of their case, but above all they focused on article 60 of the constitution. That article identifies two ways of initiating a legislative project (mashru): Either it must come from the cabinet, or it can be presented to parliament by the president. On the other hand, a proposal (muqtarah) for a law can be initiated by members or committees in parliament, but Maliki’s lawyer made the case that the two categories – project and proposal – are two entirely different things, and that a proposal must be developed into a project, by the executive, before it can be considered by the parliament.