By Reidar Visser.
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. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Beyond the interesting political dynamics behind the recently declared delay in local elections in Anbar and Nineveh, an even more pertinent issue is beginning to receive some attention in Iraq: Is the delay legal?
The relevant law in this case is the local elections law from 2008. And the relevant article 46 makes the following general points:
- Cabinet decides the elections date based on a proposal from the elections commission.
- The elections must be held on a single day.
- If elections are delayed, current provincial councils remain in power until new ones are elected.
Article 49 goes on to stipulate that no measures that contradict this law are permitted.
A prudent reading of this suggests the local elections law specifically envisions delay as a distinct possibility, but that such a delay should apply throughout Iraq. Partial delays seem impermissible, which is easy to understand given the legacy of heavily manipulated multi-stage elections in Iraq and the broader Middle East during the European mandate period.
The law also seems to indicate the initiative should come from the elections commission. In practice, questions related to the security of the elections are known to have been delegated to a special security committee with joint membership of some IHEC board members as well as representatives of the interior ministry. The head of that committee is said to be Aydan Khaled, an interior ministry official who got into some trouble over the Hashemi affair and at one point last year was rumoured to have fled to Turkey and/or given early retirement. He now appears to be back in business (and is presumably once more friendly with Maliki), although it is unclear whether the security committee or the cabinet that was the driving force behind the Anbar and Nineveh postponement.
In any case, the decision by the Iraqi cabinet on a delay limited to particular governorates seems illegal. It would be helpful if critics of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki spent more time complaining these specific transgressions to the federal supreme court – thereby forcing the court to at least speak its mind publicly – and devoted less attention to federalism schemes or to the arithmetic of the no confidence votes they plan all the time, but rarely bring to the phase of implementation.