On April 4, the Iraqi Council of Ministers endorsed the “national safety” bill, which regulates the state of emergency and defines the prime minister’s powers and the steps he can take during “emergency” measures, which mostly fall under “martial law.”
However, the bill sparked a controversy when it reached parliament and was published. Most of the debate focused on fears that “the law could be abused by the government to liquidate its opponents,” according to former Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who pointed to a number of deficiencies in the bill’s mechanisms and loopholes.
Other political parties wondered why the bill was proposed just ahead of the elections, and suspected that the timing pointed to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s intention to cancel the elections and dissolve parliament.
Raising suspicions further was the fact that the bill, which requires a two-thirds vote in parliament in accordance with Article 61 of the constitution, is being put forth at a time when parliament is unable to hold a regular session to approve the budget.
This prompted the parliament’s rapporteur, Mohammed al-Khalidi, to say, “The government sending the National Safety Law to parliament is evidence of [its] failure to provide security, which it hasn’t achieved in the last 10 years.” He expected the bill to be moved to the next session.
According to Paragraph 9 of Article 61 of the Iraqi Constitution, parliament has the power to “declare war and a state of emergency by a two-thirds majority, according to a joint request from the president of the republic and the prime minister,” and stipulates that “a state of emergency shall be declared for a period of 30 days, which can be extended, upon approval each time,” and that “the prime minister shall be delegated the necessary powers that enable him to manage the country’s affairs during the period of the declaration of war and the state of emergency. These powers shall be regulated by law in a way that does not contradict the constitution.”