Paralysis Hits the Iraqi Parliament

The following article was published on Saturday 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.

Today’s developments in the Iraqi parliament served as yet another indication of the growing disconnect between parliamentary politics and government in the country.

There is no official report from the session because the legal quorum (163 deputies) was never reached. Of course, the Iraqi parliament is rarely filled above the two-thirds level, but today attendance was particularly poor thanks to additional politically-motivated abstentions. Some reports say Iraqiyya were absent in protest against the failure to include the second reading of the strategic policy council bill on the agenda. For their part, State of Law was reportedly unhappy about the inclusion of an item about lifting the legal immunity for Sabah al-Saadi – an independent Shiite Islamist who has been deeply critical against Nuri al-Maliki to the point where the latter has launched a legal case against him. Reportedly State of Law they feared they did not have the numbers to strip Saadi of his immunity. Saadi says he personally asked parliamentary speaker Usama al-Nujayfi to include the vote as an act of protest.

For good measure, two other unrealistic items had been added to the agenda as well when it was finally published this morning, just hours before the meeting was supposed to take place: A vote on the controversial laws for the federal supreme court and the higher judicial council. Little wonder, then, that parliament was postponed until Monday. If past practice is anything to go by, all these controversial decisions will simply disappear from the agenda again. For example, there has still been no decision on the validity of the parliamentary membership of several deputies whose credentials are in doubt. And once more the parliamentary bylaws have also been dropped from the agenda.

Meanwhile, Iraqi politics remains in its usual messy state. Everyone shouts they will agree to anything that is in accordance with the constitution. (Few of them know what is actually in it.) Ammar al-Hakim garners widespread praise for a supposed initiative of five principles for dialogue that have nothing substantial to them. (This is precisely why everyone thinks they are wonderful.) The Kurds declare that Maliki has agreed to implementing the Arbil agreement. (Again.)

There is a real danger that the Iraqi parliament is becoming unable to reach decisions except on matters that are so petty and insignificant that few will notice anyway. Arab Spring enthusiasts in search of a model democracy please look elsewhere.

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