Tamimi’s Challenge and Why It Will Go Nowhere

The following article was published on Monday 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.

Ismail Alwan al-Tamimi, a lawyer from Wasit governorate, has mounted a legal challenge before the federal supreme court in which he accuses Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Usama al-Nujayfi for “unconstitutionally” appointing three deputy prime ministers (Salih al-Mutlak, Hussein al-Shahristani and Rosch Shways). Apart from its intrinsic interest as a case of a tentative constitutional challenge to the much-criticised practice of ethno-sectarian quotas in Iraq’s post-2003 political culture, the move will also draw some attention for the fact that Tamimi was also involved in a past challenge in 2010 against the then temporary speaker of parliament (Fuad Masum of the Kurdistan Alliance) for prolonging the “first session” of the parliament indefinitely and thereby postpone the political process – a matter where the federal supreme court actually sided with those who challenged the temporary speaker. Additionally, Tamimi works for the embattled governor of Kut/Wasit – a governorate dominated politically by Maliki’s own State of Law Alliance.

Alas, Tamimi’s challenge is a complete waste of time. His argument is that the constitutional enumeration of two vice-premiers belongs to the section of the constitution that related to the now bygone transitional period of 2005–2010. That in itself is of course correct. But the more important point is this: There is nothing constitutional that prevents Maliki from appointing any number of vice premiers if he thinks that is politically advisable. He can have one, three, or, for that matter, ten. Briefly, the constitution says nothing about the number of ministers, and only political wisdom will limit the imagination in this regard. Some will of course say that this limit has already been overstepped, but the point is that Maliki can constitutionally appoint ministers for the moon and the sun if he so desires, and then add deputies. What this all boils down to is that it is political not a constitutional question and if the prime minister wants to appoint a ludicrous number of placemen then it is his prerogative to do so and it is the role of the parliament – not the federal supreme court – to pass its verdict.

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