By: Ali Abel Sadah for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse. Posted on April 8.
إقرأ باللغة العربية
Throughout March, the Iraqi parliament held only three sessions, passed five laws and did not discuss a single decision concerning public affairs. Al-Monitor has examined parliament’s activity for this month and noted that it did not discuss any laws. Even the laws that were passed in March had been discussed earlier in February and January.
About This Article
The Iraqi parliament, already not known for its long hours, barely met in March amid a new power struggle between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, writes Ali Abel Sadah.
The Iraqi Parliament: Weak in Legislating and Unable to Monitor
Author: Ali Abel Sadah
Translated by: Steffi Chakti
Categories : Originals Iraq Security
A report issued by the Iraqi Parliament Monitor shows that the total number of the parliament’s working hours in 2012 was 302.6 hours for the total of all sessions, equivalent to 12.6 whole days, or 43.25 seven-hour days.
According to the calculations of this independent monitor — a civil, legal organization based in Baghdad — each MP, whose salary amounts to $34,000 per month, has worked 44 days, which equals $9,000 for every working day.
The majority of Iraqis believe that the parliament does absolutely nothing. They jestingly mock the MPs for getting paid to foment political crises.
The parliament, for 30 days, did not question or summon any official, while corruption and precarious security situations in Baghdad do not afford a permissive parliamentary supervision.
The last time the Iraqi parliament interrogated governmental officials was in 2011. MP Sherwan al-Waili, a Shiite opposed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, had interrogated the Baghdad secretary — who is responsible for municipality services in the capital — over allegations of wasting public funds on overpriced bridges and road projects. Before that, the pro-Maliki Shiite MP Hanan al-Fatlawi had presented a request to question Faraj al-Haidari, the then Kurdish head of the Independent High Electoral Commission.
The first questioning session was futile; Saber Isawi left his post only to be promoted. He assumed the position of consultant in Maliki’s bureau. The session did not come out with any conclusive information about financial corruption, while the embezzlements of public funds were obvious enough not to be denied.
The interrogation of Isawi, on the other hand, exemplified political targeting. Haidari was ousted, yet behind the scenes there was talk of a political agreement, whose victim was Haidari, to make radical changes in the council that manages the commission so as to encompass all the Iraqi political fabrics — Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Even worse, there are many important issues about which the parliament is doing nothing. The sectors of health, electricity and food are rife with corruption. The parliament, however, has not held any of their officials accountable.
The downturn in the security situation and the defensive capacities of the army call for holding accountable prominent security figures. Yet, it would be hard to imagine Maliki and the security leaders standing before the parliament and swallowing the bitter criticisms of MPs who believe that security still is under the thumb of armed groups.
At last, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi decided to invite Maliki and the commanders of the ministries of interior and defense to discuss the security situation in the aftermath of a series of explosions that hit Baghdad in the middle of March. The worst was the seizure of the Ministry of Defense by al-Qaeda’s insurgents, who used explosive belts and bombs and took the employees as hostages in only an hour, while the facility is located in a fortified region in Baghdad, supposedly hard to be breached given the number of checkpoints.
Maliki, however, apologized for not being able to make it. Al-Monitor was able to secure a copy of a news release in which Maliki said that he “has a meeting with Korean businessmen that have held a conference in Baghdad on March 30 to study the possibilities of investment in Iraq.”
Maliki’s apology angered the speaker and a number of oppositionist MPs. At a news conference attended by Al-Monitor, Nujaifi said that “Maliki is marginalizing the parliament.” Some Sunni MPs went even to greater lengths, accusing Maliki of undervaluing the lives of Iraqis.
The Maliki-led State of Law Coalition fears that if the parliament hosted the prime minister, the session will be used to put down Maliki politically in front of media outlets. The coalition believes that this is not the right time for such an encounter to occur, especially since it coincides with the heightened provincial electoral campaigns.
Nujaifi, who senses a challenge in Maliki’s stance and an attempt to limit his influence, has decided to give Maliki a delay until April 8 to come before the parliament and provide convincing answers to the questions of MPs regarding security issues.
Clearly, the MPs right to question, as stipulated in the constitution, will be used personally between the coalition leaders. Therefore, the constitutional mechanisms will be the victim of political rivalry.
Amid this environment, Maliki’s reaction seemed more challenging than that of Nujaifi. The prime minister apologized again for not being able to attend and asked the MPs who wished to question him to write to him with their questions.
Both leaders can take this challenge further, but the parliament seems to be standing on shaky ground at a time when the legislative capacities, under the control of Nujaifi, and executive capacities, controlled by Maliki, are fuelling the rivalry between the two men.
The request of hosting Maliki in the parliament and the latter’s refusal can exemplify what the parliament has been capable of doing since the establishment of democracy in the country.
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