Iraqi Politicians Push for More Power to Provinces

By Mushreq Abbas for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi parliament’s passage on June 23 of the Provincial Powers Law, which bolsters decentralization and gives local governments added authority, encouraged politicians to demand that the Federation Council Law be revived in a bid to further strengthen decentralization.

The 2005 Iraqi constitution states in Article 65 that “a legislative council shall be established named the ‘Federation Council’ to include representatives from the regions and the governorates that are not organized in a region. A law, enacted by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Council of Representatives, shall regulate the Federation Council formation, its membership conditions, its competencies and all that is connected with it.” The council has not yet seen the light of day, despite the parliament submitting a draft law to organize it in 2009.

The importance of the Federation Council lies in its function as a permanent overseer of relations between the central government and the governments of the regions and provinces. The Federation Council’s powers were the subject of disagreements that hindered the adoption of this earlier version of the law. Penned by the parliamentary Provinces Committee, it gave the council powers in keeping with the developments that followed the adoption of the Provinces Law.

On July 8, Nabil Harbo, a member of the Provinces Committee, stated, “The council’s powers lie in its capacity to monitor all pieces of legislation adopted by parliament. It also has the power to veto any decisions aimed at diminishing the authority of provinces. The council will filter out all laws adopted by parliament, and has the authority to either pass those laws or reject them.”

This view of the council’s powers is clearly representative of the parties that favor decentralization. They consider it an additional safety valve safeguarding the authorities that regions and provinces have gained of late. It is a vision undoubtedly crystallizing and expanding to include most of Iraq’s political spectrum, thus leading to the resurgence of demands for the formation of a new council.

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