Iraqi Parliament Declares Itself Above the Constitution

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

It is not a good omen: In the context of unprecedented political anger in the Iraqi streets, parliament today voted to ignore the country’s constitution and its own laws. In a ruling on the validity of deputy replacements that occurred subsequent to the formation of the Maliki government last December (i.e. deputies who joined the government and gave up their seats in parliament to be replaced by others), both constitutional and legal provisions were conveniently sidestepped.

Specifically, in today’s ruling, parliament validated the memberships in the assembly of six deputies against whom objections had been raised: Jawad al-Bulani, Faris al-Sinjari, Mina Salih Mahdi, Muhammad al-Hindawi, Abdallah Khalaf Muhammad and Jawad Ghanim al-Shuhayli. At least three of those cases (Bulani, Hindawi and Shuhayli) represent flagrant violations of the law on parliamentary replacement since the new deputies are from a different governorate than the original deputy. The constitutional provision for one deputy per 100,000 Iraqis – as reflected in the distribution key for deputies per governorates – is thereby also violated.

Additionally, there are replacement cases that should have been challenged, but haven’t. Most prominently, they include Salim al-Jibburi of Tawafuq; a Diyala candidate who replaced a Salahhadin candidate. It is also unclear what happened to Daghir al-Musawi, who was supposed to replace a National Alliance candidate of the “Hizbollah in Iraq” party, but whose name is not to be found in the latest list of parliament members. It is possible that the National Alliance changed its mind in this case; if he had been made a deputy it would have been another violation of the rules since Musawi was a candidate in Basra and not in Maysan.

What today’s vote shows is that once more the Iraqi political elite is unable to rise above camaraderie and cliquishness and make a principled stand on legal and constitutional issues. Until this tendency goes away, it seems unlikely that the assembly will be able to make the transition from serving its own interests to serving the people it is supposed to represent.

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