By Mustafa Habib.
Baghdad may soon get its own version of a US Senate as MPs attempt to decentralize power further. A law is in the making to form the long-awaited Federal Council, but whether it passes in the face of opposition, is another question.
It seems that Iraqi MPs’ success in passing a law giving Iraq’s provinces more power than ever – the Provincial Powers Law – has made them more confident about pushing for decentralization than ever. After that coup in June this year, the next item on their agenda is the so-called Federation Council.
The Federation Council will act in a similar way to the US Senate, the German Bundesrat or the House of Lords in the UK.
As NL Aid, a Dutch blog reporting on foreign aid, pointed out in a 2012 essay, the Federation Council is all about “horizontal federalism”. Writer Nasos Mihalakas points out that the Iraqi Constitution encourages Iraq’s provinces to become more independent and form their own regions, in a similar way to how the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan currently operates. To prevent separatism, conflict or the total disintegration of the nation, another element of government is required, Mihalakas suggests, and this would be the Federation Council.
The Iraqi Constitution does detail some things about the Federation Council. Article 46 talks about its existence within the Iraqi government and Article 62 says that: “A law, enacted by a two-third majority of the members of the Council of representatives, shall regulate the Federation Council formation, its membership conditions and its specializations and all that is connected with it”.
However the Iraqi Constitution does not prescribe any particular powers to the as-yet nonexistent body. These will be decided via the Iraqi Parliament’s new law. And according to initial discussions, the kind that are currently taking place, so far the Federation Council’s main job is to defend the provinces’ new powers, as given to them in June.