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. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The recent downsizing of the Iraqi government – in itself in some ways a good move – has prompted another bout of legal chaos concerning the rules governing replacement of deputies in the country’s legislative assembly. The latest developments in the matter make up yet another threat to Iraq’s fragile constitutional order and form a depressive backdrop to today’s grim news regarding the security situation.
The facts of the matter are as follows. Ever since the downsizing of the second Maliki government came on the agenda and was carried out in late July, some voices have been calling for the restitution of the dismissed ministers as deputies in parliament (i.e. in those cases where a deputy had originally won a seat in the 2010 parliamentary elections and subsequently gave it up upon becoming promoted as minister). It should be stressed that there appears to be no legal basis for restoring the seats in this way. The relevant piece of legislation, the replacement law on deputies from 2006, merely stipulates procedures for how to replace deputies that vacate their seats and does not go into the hypothetical question of dismissed ministers returning as deputies, meaning that as far as the replacement law is concerned, once a seat has been given up it should be seen as irretrievably lost for the deputy that vacated it.
Despite these legal aspects, the calls for the ex-ministers to be allowed to return to their seats have persisted. To some extent, the intention may have been to compensate those ministers since their process of dismissal was also one hundred per cent unconstitutional. And yesterday, the so-called “consultative assembly of the state” (majlis shura al-dawla) reportedly reaffirmed the return of the dismissed ministers as parliamentary deputies, thereby providing a cover of legality to the restitution process. Some reports say that ex-ministers that had previously been deputies will be be able to choose between returning to parliament or retiring with a salary.