Iraq's Dysfunctional Government by Proxy

By Omar Sattar, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi thought to be working on reforms that include the formation of a technocratic Cabinet, the issue of proxy appointments is back in the spotlight.

For more than a decade, Iraqi government institutions have been run by proxy, with the prime minister appointing officials in acting capacities to lead government bodies, independent commissions and military commands because of parliament's failure to vote on candidates due to political disagreements over the distribution of positions.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Hamdia al-Husseini, a member of the parliament's legal committee, explained:

“Acting officials include undersecretaries and independent commission heads, like at the Central Bank and integrity and intelligence commissions, as well as military commanders and other senior officials. They hold over 80% of the posts at government bodies, especially at the Ministries of Defense and Interior, in addition to security bodies and other important Iraqi official institutions.”

Husseini added:

“Appointment by proxy contradicts the constitution and the Civil Code of 1960 prohibiting acting officials from holding their post for more than one annual term.

“The issue of acting officials, whether in the Cabinet or the rest of the government institutions, is a critical one, because their decisions are not constitutional. Their appointment is not subject to any legal standards, as acting officials cannot be legally held accountable because they were appointed by the prime minister, not the parliament as per the constitution.

“The problem of appointment by proxy will likely be resolved as part of the new Cabinet reforms Prime Minister Abadi is seeking to implement in addition to the formation of a technocratic Cabinet.

“It is illogical to implement political reforms and form a professional Cabinet while most undersecretaries and director generals are being appointed without parliamentary approval as stipulated by the constitution.”

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