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.
Amid continued threats about a forthcoming questioning of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, allies of the Iraqi premier have embarked upon what seems to be a pre-emptive move: A formal request for a parliamentary debate on the performance of parliament speaker Usama al-Nujayfi, with a focus on alleged “constitutional infractions”.
To some extent, the Maliki-Nujayfi struggle has the characteristics of a tit for tat escalation between Maliki’s Shia Islamist State of Law bloc and Nujayfi’s secular and Sunni-backed Iraqiyya. True, this is not the first time there has been tension between the two. But it was mainly after the issue of a Maliki no confidence vote came on the agenda earlier this spring that the idea of sacking Nujayfi as parliament speaker became a prominent issue.
One aspect to keep in mind regarding a potential attempt to oust Nujayfi is that the modalities for getting rid of the parliament speaker are not covered in the Iraqi constitution. Instead, the process is governed by the law on the replacement of deputies. The relevant clause was adopted in a revision of that law in 2007 and the relevant paragraph says parliament can sack its speaker with an absolute majority based on a reasoned request from a third of its members.
In today’s Iraqi parliament, those numerical requirements translate into 163 MPs for sacking the speaker (same as for sacking the PM) and 109 for calling the vote. It is noteworthy that there is in some ways thus a stricter requirement for introducing a no confidence vote against the speaker than against the PM (the latter can be called by 65 members following questioning initiated by 25 MPs). It is noteworthy also that the request from State of Law that has been filed is not an outright call for a vote on his ouster. Rather they are talking about a debate “preparatory to his sacking”. No more than 25 signatures are required for this (61-7-b of the constitution).