By Mustafa Habib.
My way or the highway: PM changes iraqi political format forever
In passing the 2013 budget, Iraq’s PM switched from consensual, quota-based law making to his way: majority rule. The result: political tensions rising.
The Iraqi budget for 2013 was passed in parliament in Baghdad on March 7. And in itself, this is not unusual. But what is unprecedented is the way in which it was passed.
The budget was ratified by what one analyst called “a fleeting alignment of the main Shiite [Muslim] political blocs and defectors from the predominantly Sunni [Muslim] and secular Iraqiya list”. In other words, it was passed by a political majority rather than by political consensus, which is what Iraqi politicians have been using to get their laws onto the books since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country that ended Saddam Hussein’s regime.
It was “a wafer-thin majority”, US analyst Michael Knights, wrote for the Washington Institute, a think tank dedicated to improving the US’ foreign policy in the Middle East.
Such decision making – by majority, rather than consensus – is a major political transformation for Iraq. And it has opened the door to heated discussions on the possibility of this kind of decision making becoming more permanent.
In terms of the 2013 budget, a fairly large number of opposition MPs boycotted the parliamentary session. This included the Kurdish bloc with around 40 MPs and the opposition Iraqiya bloc with around 80 MPs. Despite their absence though, there were still 168 MPs present in the house which meant that the bill could be voted upon. In the end, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki managed to convince all of them - including 159 Shiite Muslim politicians - to support his version of the 2013 budget and it was ratified.
Afterwards Kurdish politicians issued a statement criticizing the way the budget was approved. They were disadvantaged by the budget’s specifics but they did not focus on this. Their statement focused on the methods used to pass the budget. Using the principle of majority rather than consensus was a dangerous precedent they said.