More Federalism Chaos

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.

There is so much fuss surrounding the renewed federalism debate in Iraq that it is really hard to know where to start.

Maybe a suitable vantage point is nomenclature: Can the Iraqi press please understand that no one can “declare” themselves a federal region in the way Salahaddin tried to do? Iraqi media keep talking about the “declaration” of federal regions, ignoring the fact that the most the governorate council can do is to ask the government to conduct a referendum.

Other oddities can be found in the arguments for and against the emerging federalism bid. One Iraqiyya figure claims that “everyone” supports the Salahaddin bid, including all the districts.

Again, this is irrelevant. Sub-entities may count in Spanish federalism but they don’t count in Iraqi federalism. The referendum will be a straightforward majority vote counted at the governorate level.

As for the opponents of the Salahaddin federalism bid, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki still continues to produce statements that are legally and constitutionally flawed. He labels the Salahaddin bid as neo-Baathism in disguise, ignoring the fact that the law does not specify ideological preconditions for launching a federal region. In other words, it is the prerogative of the people of Salahaddin to go federal and try to grow bananas if they so desire. Similarly, Maliki continues to talk about “conditions” for federal regions to emerge in concert with the government, and even alludes to the “pre-occupation” of the central government to build security at the moment!

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