The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford. 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.
So the new Iraqi parliament met today after having promised Iraqi voters, the Shiite religious authorities, and the international community that they would do so.
Unsurprisingly, they did little else than meet. Following the inaugural formalities, Mahdi al-Hafez, the “speaker of age”(the oldest MP who chairs the first session), introduced the only point of substance on the agenda: The election of a parliament speaker and his two deputies.
At that point, a Kurdish MP found the time had come to complain about the refusal of Baghdad to compromise on the KRG share of the budget. This rather blunt violation of the official agenda prompted heckling and even blunter derogatory verbal counter attacks.
Speaker Hafez, who represents the small and secular Iraqi coalition with both Sunni and Shiite members, proposed a half-hour break to calm tensions and explore the opportunities for electing a speaker.
When the session resumed, many of the 255 deputies that had been present at the outset failed to show up. It was suggested that there was no longer a quorum (165 MPs); indeed some reports suggested the number of deputies present had fallen as low as 70-100.
What apparently had happened was that Kurds and Sunni Arabs deliberately boycotted – the Kurds probably to some extent offended by the verbal altercation about its attempt to put budget issues on the agenda, but also with suggestions that both protested what they saw as a failure by the Shia alliance to come up with a replacement candidate for Nuri al-Maliki as premier. What was clear, at any rate, was that there was no speaker candidate.