The Budget Aftermath: Another Quasi-Decision in the Iraqi Parliament

As for the Iraq parliament as an institution, despite what the media says, today’s “decision” on the budget was essentially a non-decision. The deputies “agreed in principle” to press for a law to cancel the armoured cars. That “agreement in principle” is not a law, but with parliament so often unable to do what it should do (i.e. pass laws) there has been an inflation of this kind of quasi-decisions that can help mask the ineffectiveness of the deputies. A recent, interesting case in point is the little-noticed “decision” that preceded passage of the budget on 23 February – about “balance” (ethno-sectarian quotas) in the armed forces (as per article 9 of the constitution) and special representation of the federal regions and the governorates at the level of state (article 105). This is however not a law (and article 105 specifically calls for a law), and whoever demanded it as a prerequisite for passing the budget (presumably the Kurds) has in fact signed up to yet another mini Arbil agreement unlikely to see implementation any time soon.

In the weeks leading up to the Arab summit scheduled for the end of March, focus in parliament is likely to move to the amnesty law (with another attempt at a second reading on Thursday). Generally speaking, Sadrists and the secular Iraqiyya have people in their constituencies who would benefit from a liberal amnesty law whereas Maliki’s State of Law are pressing for more restrictive definitions of who should be eligible for pardon. The law has been at the level of a second reading for several months, exemplifying the kind of long-term stalemate that has become so characteristic of Iraqi politics.

Maybe Iraqi parliamentarians will understand that one day, armoured cars may not be sufficient to protect them from the anger of an unhappy electorate fed up with parliamentary inefficiency?

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