Constitution So Divisive, There are Calls for a New One

Although analysts have criticised the Iraqi Constitution for the fact that it was formulated in a relatively short time  and that it came about due to conflicts between major political blocs, the biggest problem for Iraqi politicians is a lack of consensus.

“Regarding the constitutional amendments, there’s been no consensus at all between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish politicians during the past three years,” MP Abdul Rahman al-Luwaizi, a member of the parliamentary committee on legal affairs, told NIQASH. “Constitutional amendments are complicated and we need a calm political atmosphere to make them. But instead the political landscape has been marred by conflict and crisis for three years.”

Al-Luwaizi adds that the small margin of consensus that existed in the last Parliament has almost totally disappeared from this one. What makes things even more complex is that there is are a number of legislative hoops that everyone must jump through together before any amendments to the Constitution can be made official.

After the parliamentary committee on the amendments – which doesn’t exist at the moment – makes its recommendations, these recommendations would be submitted to MPs in Parliament for a vote. If there’s an absolute majority – more than half of the MPs agree – then the recommendations are approved. Within two months of that approval, a public referendum has to be held on the amendments. If that is successful they are adopted.

There are a number of things within the current Constitution that make it very unlikely that anyone will agree on any amendments. These include the disputed territories; undefined regions that Iraqi Arabs say belong to them but which Iraq’s Kurds also claim. There’s also disagreement on how much power Iraq’s federal government should have and how much power the provincial authorities should have, arguments the powers of the various branches of government, debate on the distribution of oil wealth and varying viewpoints on personal status laws. All of these go to the heart of Iraq’s major ethnic and sectarian disputes – and nobody seems willing to compromise.

In fact, the disagreements are so untenable that some Sunni Muslim clerics have recently been calling for a whole new Constitution to be written.

“Certainly there is a need to make some amendments to the Constitution but we reject the idea of abolishing this one and writing a whole new one,” Abbas al-Bayati, a Turkmen and a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s ruling coalition, told NIQASH.  “The Iraqi Constitution is one of the best in the region. However there are some problems in some of the paragraphs which should be debated after the next legislative elections.”

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