By Reidar Visser.
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.
Yesterday’s attempted emergency session of the Iraqi parliament was an important expression of how recent weeks of protests in Iraq translate into parliamentary arithmetic.
Numbers and rumours regarding the participation of various blocs have been flying around ever since the beginning of Sunday’s session. Regarding the parties that refrained from attending, the reports have been quite consistent: The State of Law bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki along with Shiite Islamists allies Badr, Fadila and, somewhat more surprisingly perhaps since they are not in alliance for the local elections except in the north, the ISCI-Muwatin bloc of Ammar al-Hakim.
Also the White bloc, a mostly Shiite breakaway faction from the secular-Sunni dominated Iraqiyya boycotted the session. That means there were MPs present from Iraqiyya (whose constituencies have played the dominant role in the recent protests), the Kurds, and the Sadrists.
The theoretical parliamentary strength of those who boycotted is around 130, whereas the attendants, again in theory, should at least be able to muster 170 deputies, above the 163 mark that signifies the quorum level in the Iraqi parliament. Things got quite ironic during the course of Sunday as press reports made headlines to the effect that the quest to reach quorum was so intense (and the general attendance level of the Iraqiyya deputies so poor) that even Iraqiyya leader Ayyad Allawi came to parliament (he usually doesn’t, although it is of course his a duty as an MP to attend). In the end, it wasn’t enough. According to the official parliamentary report, 161 deputies attended, just 2 MPs short of quorum. This is higher than some of the unofficial figures that circulated earlier on Sunday but of course not enough to hold a valid parliamentary session.