Plan to Decentralize Power still Stuck in Limbo

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Almost a year and a half ago, Iraq was supposed to undertake a historic exchange of power. This would have involved devolving power from the government in Baghdad to the authorities in charge of Iraq’s provinces.

The transfer of this kind of centralized power is seen as essential, a way of resolving some of the conflicts between Iraq’s different ethnic groups and religious sects, giving provincial authorities control over their own money and security and allowing them to come up with solutions that best fit the kinds of Iraqis living in their areas.

After the decentralization was first legislated for in 2008, there have been several amendments to the applicable legislation, known as Law 21. When Iraq’s current Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, came to power he declared his support for decentralized power and promised that the provinces would have more power within 12 months.

However this has not happened. And there are a number of reasons why.

While politicians passed and amended Law 21, they did not take into consideration a slew of other legislation that still existed, and could, ostensibly, be put into practice at any time.

This includes laws from pre-2003, when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was still in power, such as the civil service law of 1960 and the public-sector employees’ law of 1991. These and many others contradict any legislation that says provincial authorities have power in these areas.

Instead of working to amend these old statutes more quickly, Iraqi parliamentarians have fiddled around Law 21 instead, yet again, recommending that instead of having 25 members, provincial councils should only have 11 seats. This is despite the fact that, if the provincial powers law does come into effect, there will be more work for council members to do rather than less.

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