Tag Archive | "Federalism"

Basra “Takes Further Steps Toward Independence”

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.

Kurdistan of the South? Basra Takes Further Steps Toward Independence Inside Iraq

Those who believe that the resource-rich province of Basra would be better off as a semi-autonomus region say the time is right to make this change. Others say any such project will endanger Iraq just when the country needs unity most.

The next few months will be crucial for one of Iraq’s most resource-rich provinces. For some time now there have been calls to make the southern province of Basra a region – that is, it would become more independent from the federal government in Baghdad in a similar way to Iraqi Kurdistan.

“We have noticed that this idea is more widely accepted by social and tribal leaders who were against the plan in the past,” says politician, judge and legal expert, Wael Abdul-Latif, a former governor of Basra who’s been campaigning for more independence for the province since 2008. “We have started to collect the votes of those who support the creation of a region of Basra. After this we will submit a request to the Independent High Electoral Commission.”

Now volunteers say they’ve already collected enough signatures to put forward a request to make Basra a region – and they say that they’ll submit the proposal in mid-April.

To establish a region Article 119 of the Iraqi Constitution says certain steps must be taken – this involves either a tenth of all eligible voters in the province supporting the idea or one third of the provincial council members submitting the request. After this Iraq’s Parliament decides whether to go ahead with turning a province into a more independent region with a vote.

And Basra has long been a candidate for this. In fact, the first request for regionalisation was submitted in 1921. “The rationale behind the petition was based on the economic and social characteristics of Basra, such as its having a seaport and economic vibrancy,” website Al Monitor reports.

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Basra “Moving Towards Independence”

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

Since the establishment of modern Iraq in 1921, its provinces have had different positions toward decentralization as a result of the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity.

In addition, economic resources have varied widely from one region to another. At the end of 2014, Iraqis were once again discussing the possibilities of decentralization.

Perhaps the oldest demand for decentralization was raised even before the establishment of modern Iraq, when a prestigious group of men presented a petition signed by 4,500 people to the British High Commissioner in June 1921 demanding the administrative independence of Basra province.

The rationale behind the petition was based on the economic and social characteristics of Basra, such as its having a seaport and economic vibrancy. Iraqi politicians and British decision-makers never welcomed the petition, despite constant demands until 1928 that they consider it.

Other federalism or disassociation plans, such as for the Kurds and Assyrians, were also tamped down by the strengthening of the Iraqi state. The central government in Baghdad, however, failed to please certain segments of the society with its management of the country, so demands for disassociation continued until the Baathist regime was overthrown in 2003.

The idea of regional federal governments within a united Iraq was suggested during negotiations between the political blocs while drafting the current constitution, which defines Iraq’s republic as a federal state. According to Article 117, “This constitution, upon coming into force, shall recognize the region of Kurdistan, along with its existing authorities, as a federal region,” and according to Article 120, “Each region shall adopt a constitution of its own that defines the structure of powers of the region, its authorities, and the mechanisms for exercising such authorities, provided that it does not contradict this constitution.”

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Will Iraq’s Shiites Secede?

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.

After the Rise of ISIS, Will Iraq’s Shiites Secede?

As Iraqi Shiites celebrate the holy month of Muharram and its key holiday of Ashura (3 November), it can be argued that radical sectarian mobilization among them has risen to a level unprecedented in modern Iraqi history since 1927, when a series of episodes prompted calls among the Shiites of Iraq to form their own separate state.

This year, too, visions focusing on the possible separation of the Shiite-majority provinces of Iraq as a separate political entity are back on the agenda.

The last time such ideas were being considered in an even remote way was in 2005, when Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI launched his scheme for a single Shiite federal entity stretching from Basra to Najaf.

It was the first time since 1927 that anything in the way of territorial separation of Iraqi Shiites had received any serious attention whatsoever. However, back then the project was characterized by only fragmented levels of support, with most Iraqi Shiites still speaking in the name of a unitary state. An even more radical movement to separate the south entirely had even less of a support base.

However, following the rise to prominence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014, Iraqi Shiite discourse on the Iraqi state appears to have changed quite dramatically – in the direction of separatist solutions. It is true that some of the talk of a separate Shiite entity, often referred to as the “Sumer” project in a reference to one of the ancient civilizations of Iraq, may have gained extra prominence because of the proliferation of social media, meaning that a wider array of Iraqi Shiite voices are accessible to outside analysts than at any point in history.

However, it is noteworthy that also more established political parties among the Iraqi Shiites appear to be warming up to ideas that were considered a taboo just a few years ago. A case in point is the State of Law alliance of former PM Nuri al-Maliki and current PM Haydar al-Abadi. In a first, during Ramadan, a key website supportive of Maliki accorded much prominence to an article that openly hinted at the possible secession of the Shiite areas from the rest of Iraq.

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No Exit for Iraq Without Decentralization

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.

One cannot say that the denial of the decentralization principle by Iraq’s political circle, as a philosophy upon which the Iraqi constitution is based, led to all of the political and security failures that Iraq is seeing today.

Yet, the previous government’s experiment, which was built upon reconsidering the constitution in a way that supports “the state’s centralization” has undoubtedly contributed to this fall. The new government has the difficult task of redefining the state in accordance with the framework of the Iraqi Constitution.

The government, headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has found itself facing an extremely similar situation as the previous government in the way the state is characterized.

This situation is supported by an administrative and political class that has reached key decision-making posts, and still believes that Iraq can only be governed through a strong unitary system of government that resembles the existing form of government in most Middle Eastern countries.

The government alone was not behind this defect. All of the political forces that have neglected the implementation of the constitution and the proper establishment of a decentralized system have also contributed. Today, this oversight has led to the possibility of partition or civil war between the components instead of ensuring the country’s unity.

Article 1 of the Constitution defines Iraq as “a federal state.” However, the Iraqi legislature has tried to consolidate the concept of a decentralized state. It presents a series of articles and creates bodies and institutions that are all intended to properly establish the concept of “a decentralized state.”

The most prominent clash between the Iraqi parliament and government regarding this issue took place in 2008, when parliament passed the Provincial Powers Act (PPA, also known as Law 21 of 2008), which was subject to a series of amendments in 2010, 2012 and 2013. These amendments have all resulted in giving consideration to the philosophy of a decentralized system of government in Iraq. Yet, the original text and its amendments were objected to by the government, which rejected its application and considered that it decreases its powers.

The dispute centered on granting the provinces, as administrative entities in Iraq, security, political, economic and service powers, and on abolishing federal ministries and transferring their budgets and powers to the provinces.

Had the law been genuinely implemented, a lot of security, economic, administrative and service crises would have been resolved, or at least their effects would have been contained.

The talk in Iraq about the formation of a military force under the title of “a national guard” that is managed within each province to preserve its security is a move that was imposed by the Islamic State’s occupation of large Iraqi areas. This could have been resolved through Law 21 of 2008, which had granted local governments broad powers to preserve their internal security.

With the formation of Abadi’s government, the urgent need to reinterpret the Iraqi political situation separately from the Nouri al-Maliki governments’ experience has emerged. Parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri told Al-Monitor, “Iraq needs a legislative revolution that re-establishes ties within the state and sets up the basis of the decentralized system as the foundation upon which the Iraqi Constitution is based.”

He said, “We have visualized an approach for a [road map] of laws that need to be passed quickly, most prominently a Federation Council Act, the Oil and Gas Act, and Federal Court Act, in addition to the National Guard Act.”

The Federation Council is included in constitutional Article 48, as part of the legislative power, and is detailed in Article 65. This stipulates that legislative council, known as the Federation Council, shall be established and include representatives from the regions and the governorates that are not incorporated into a region. A law, enacted by a majority of the members of the Council of Representatives, shall regulate the formation of the Federation Council, its membership conditions, its competencies and all that is connected with it.

This council, which parliament is considering creating, falls behind the constitutional date which was set for its establishment. It cannot accomplish its task unless accompanied by additional laws and procedures in support for the decentralized system of government.

According to constitutional Article 105, a public commission shall be established by parliament to guarantee “the rights of the regions and governorates that are not incorporated into a region to ensure the fair participation in the management of the various federal state’s institutions, missions, fellowships, delegations and regional and international conferences. The commission shall be comprised of representatives of the federal government and representatives of the regions and governorates that are not incorporated into a region.”

Moreover, Article 106 stipulates, “A public commission shall be established by a law to audit and appropriate federal revenues. The commission shall be comprised of experts from the federal government, the regions, the governorates and their representatives.”

In addition, Article 107 stipulates that a council, known as the Federal Public Service Council, shall be established to regulate the affairs of the federal public service. There is also the Oil and Gas Act, which stipulates that wealth is fairly distributed among the provinces and regions, on the one hand, and the federal government on the other. It also provides investment laws that need to take into account the particularity and needs of every province. All of these laws were not originally passed, were passed without being implemented or without being properly implemented.

The reinterpretation of the Iraqi Constitution’s philosophy, as it unequivocally adopts a decentralized system, and grants additional powers to the provinces — which are administrative entities that already exist and have an acceptable level of stability in their governing bodies, formations and borders — is the only available outlet today to bring Iraq out of its crisis. This alternative is safer than the establishment of regions with a sectarian nature, which would leave serious consequences for political stability in Iraq and the region.

(Decentralization image via Shutterstock)

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Could Law 21 Save Iraq?

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.

Giving Provinces More Power: Could Law 21 Save Iraq?

How can a country like Iraq – with its different sects, religions and ethnicities – be governed appropriately? Some are now suggesting that giving all of Iraq’s provinces the powers they were granted by a law amended mid-2013 could be a way out of the current crisis. Local authorities would govern themselves better than Baghdad and Iraq would remain united.

As Iraqi politicians have been trying to form a new government, more than one analyst has said that the country’s current crisis is due to the policies established by the most recent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and his desire to monopolize and centralize power. Various solutions have been suggested regarding the problem.

These have included introducing amendments to the Iraqi Constitution, creating new laws to reign in the Prime Minister’s powers or just simply removing al-Maliki from the job – which may well happen anyway as some of the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister’s most important allies seem to have deserted him.

However there is one other potential solution to at least some of Iraq’s current woes – and that is to properly enact, and then commit to, Law 21, which was amended by the Iraqi Parliament in the middle of 2013.

There are at least 18 Iraqi cities regularly complaining about the monopolization of power by Baghdad. They say the government interferes in provincial affairs far too much, that it makes decisions that actually go against the Iraqi constitution and that it prevents local officials from making good decisions and local appointments.

“Iraq is a country with many ethnicities, sects and religions,” explains local political analyst Saeed Radi. “It’s very difficult for any one party to manage all affairs. A Shiite Muslim-dominated government would be hard pressed to know what Iraq’s Sunni Muslims and Kurds want and need.”

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Basra “Threatens Autonomy”

By John Lee.

Local authorities in Basra province have reportedly threatened to break away from the central government and create an autonomous region of their own.

The idea was rekindled by MP Wail Abd al-Latif, who told Rudaw:

Efforts toward making Basra an autonomous region is a project and not a trump card against the central government …

Starting this month, the committee assigned with making Basra an autonomous region will take new legal steps through forming a council made up of representatives from all the towns and sub-districts of Basra.

He noted that this project has been in the making for a number of years and conforms fully to the Iraqi constitution.

Just days before drafting the final version of the Iraqi constitution in 2005, the issue of a southern Shiite autonomous region caused heated divisive debate among Iraqi politicians.

An autonomous Shiite region that includes several southern provinces is considered the brainchild of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the former leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI).

He proposed a Shiite autonomous region modeled after the Kurdistan Region, but divisions between Shiites and strong Sunni opposition defeated the project.

In 2010, 22 members from 35 Basra Provincial Councils signed a petition demanding Baghdad hold a referendum in the province in accordance with the Iraqi constitution, so that residents can choose if they want to remain under Baghdad or form their own autonomous government. But the demand fell on deaf ears at the prime minister’s office.

Abd al-Latif argued:

If Basra became an autonomous region, it would be different from the Kurdistan Region, because the Kurdistan Region was a reality before the formation of the new Iraq and its achievements were incorporated into the Iraqi constitution …

“The region of Basra would be compatible with the current Iraqi laws and constitution.

Over the past several months the Sunni provinces of Anbar, Salahdeen and Diyala unilaterally declared autonomy from Baghdad.

(Source: Rudaw)

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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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Provinces to Manage More of Own Oil Wealth?

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

An Iraqi researcher has advised the councils of oil- and gas-producing provinces to take advantage of a loophole in the new amendment to the provincial law recently passed by the Iraqi parliament in order to “issue a law of oil and gas specific to each province, and repeal, retroactively cancel and renegotiate the Oil Ministry contracts (service contracts) in compliance with the choices and priorities of each province.”

The Iraqi parliament voted on June 23, on the second amendment of the Law of Provinces not associated in a region, Law No. 21 for 2008. According to several MPs, this law “addresses the overlap between the powers of local governments and the central government, gives broad legislative and regulatory powers to the provinces and will have a positive impact on all provinces.”

Article 2 of Paragraph 6 of the new amendment states: “The joint disciplines stipulated in Articles 112, 113 and 114 of the Constitution are managed in coordination and cooperation between the federal government and the local governments. In case of dispute between the two, the Law of Provinces not associated in a region gets the priority in accordance with the provisions of Article 115 of the Constitution.”

According to the researcher, Nebras al-Kadhimi, stipulating that the priority goes to the provincial law in the event of conflict between the central government and the province allows provinces to legislate their own laws to exploit oil production.

Kadhimi wrote on his Facebook page, “I have advice to give to the … provincial councils in Basra, Nasiriyah (Dhi Qar province), Amarah (Maysan province) and Kut (Wasit province) in light of the new powers set forth in the amendment of Law No. 21 for 2008, especially Article 2 of Paragraph 6.There is a large gap that you can benefit from. You can actually issue a law on oil and gas that is specific to your province.”

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