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.
Perhaps the most significant development in yesterday’s parliament session came towards the end: Parliament will be on holiday until 20 November.
That’s right: Despite continuing political stalemate, Iraqi lawmakers will not meet for another 6 weeks or so. Ostensibly, the reason for the long holiday is the fact that it coincides with the pilgrimage to Mecca in early November. It is expected that a large number of deputies will be out of the country.
One cannot help wonder, though, whether political expediency may have played a role in the decision. Asma al-Musawi, a Sadrist, reportedly said a request to the federal supreme court for extending the term had been rejected on constitutional grounds! That statement should arouse some serious incredulity since the constitution only stipulates that there shall be two parliamentary terms annually of altogether 8 months and that parliament can also extend its work for an additional 30 days if 50 members or the parliamentary speaker request it. As usual, there is a delay in the publication of the court ruling – if there actually is one, that is.
More likely, the will to call for such an extension was missing because the long holiday will fit the agenda of the biggest political parties perfectly. For Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his State of Law coalition it makes sense because they can continue to rule Iraq as a de facto minority government. For the secular Iraqiyya, the long holiday probably makes sense as well, not least since what they are able to do in terms of effective parliamentary opposition is limited anyway. Hence, they may well prefer to remain muttering on the sidelines.
This stalemate, or variations of it, is likely to continue until there is some kind of rapprochement between the two main factions. In this respect, one interesting development yesterday was the approval of a new electricity minister from the Karbuli bloc within Iraqiyya. It means that in terms of ministers, the factions of Iraqiyya outside the direct control of Ayyad Allawi at least technically speaking remain more integrated in the Maliki government than Allawi’s own Wifaq movement. Potentially, a future decision on the security ministries and the defence portfolio in particular might have a further impact on that relationship.
Still, with the upcoming holiday recess we are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the formation of the second Maliki government and still have no ministers of interior or defence approved by parliament. Maybe that is exactly the situation Maliki wants to have.