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.
Over the past few days there have been persistent reports that some leading members of Iraqiyya who have lost faith in the national council for high policies are contemplating reviving the debate about a senate in the Iraqi parliament as a potential substitute.
To some extent, there are positive aspects to this suggestion. Firstly, unlike the strategic council, the senate is already in the Iraqi constitution, even though its composition and prerogatives are ill-defined (article 65, which apparently was added to the constitutional draft in 2005 as a last-minute measure). Iraq has had a bicameral parliamentary structure in the past as well: The senate during the days of the monarchy was an appointed upper chamber to the “elected” first chamber. Potentially, then, a senate could serve as a deliberative forum that could supplement the existing parliament, not least since the appointment formula sketched out in the constitution – two representatives per governorate and region – would produce a different political dynamic than that prevailing in the proportionally elected house of representatives. Indeed, when compared with the strategic policy council (which would largely comprise members of the existing government), the senate comes across as an institution that holds far greater promise for avoiding a mere duplication of the stalemates that currently dominate both the executive and the legislature in Iraq.