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.
The presidency of the Iraqi parliament has taken the unprecedented step of publishing what it calls the full list of deputies who were absent from the last parliament meeting.
The move comes after a week of trouble with achieving quorum in the Iraqi national assembly. Previously, despite the fact that parliament is mostly only two-thirds full, only names of those who have formally applied for leave of absence have been published. This time, the presidency of the parliament has decided to extend the parliament term with one month in response to the quorum problems, and has vowed to continue to publish the names of the absent MPs on the parliament website.
It is interesting that the list specifically describes the absence of all the deputies of the Kurdish bloc and its allies – altogether 59 deputies, including 2 Chaldeans and 1 Shabak – as relating to a “political boycott”. For the remainder of absent deputies, there are ostensibly other reasons, although a glance at the statistics reveals some interesting tendencies. Starting with the Shiite alliance, out of its 28 absent deputies, no less than 10 are Sadrists, which could perhaps be seen as something of a political protest.
But note that the State of Law bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has also 10 deputies absent! Turning to Iraqiyya, again the Wifaq bloc of Ayyad Allawi stands out, accounting for 8 of the 23 absent MPs. But other blocs including more pro-Maliki ones are also absent, with for example 3 from the Mutlak bloc and 2 from the Karbuli bloc. Also noteworthy is the absence of 6 deputies from pro-Maliki Iraqiyya splinter groups like Free Iraqiyya (4), White (1) and Wataniyun (1).
In sum, this latest move seems like a much-needed escalation from the Iraqi parliament presidency against MPs whose general laziness tends to cut across party lines. Whereas some Maliki opponents may be absent in protest, pro-Maliki MPs are perhaps absent in sheer apathy over a parliament which often seems confined to irrelevance. Note also that the list – despite being the most comprehensive overview of absentees at an Iraqi parliamentary meeting published to date – does not count more than 116 deputies, less than the 163 needed to deny quorum. Are we supposed to believe that Ayyad Allawi, who is not mentioned in the list, actually attended?
While the publication of this list is a welcome and long overdue move by the Iraqi parliament presidency, it seems there is still much left to do before there is full transparency in the Iraqi parliamentary process.