On Aug. 26, 2013, the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq announced that it had overturned a previous law, passed by parliament, that limits the president, prime minister and parliament speaker to two terms of office.
The law, which was passed by parliament on Jan. 26, 2013, had prevented Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from running for a third term as head of the government.
Judge Abdul Sattar Bayraktar told Al-Monitor, “The Federal Supreme Court invalidated the law, which was voted on by parliament and limited the terms of the president, prime minister and parliament speaker, under the pretense that it is a proposed law and not a draft law.”
There is a big difference between the two terms: Proposed laws are referred by MPs, while draft laws are submitted by the federal government, led by Maliki.
In 2011, Maliki addressed Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, where he emphasized that “the government that I lead is the one that has the right to promulgate laws, which should be subject to discussion and vote in parliament.”
Bayraktar said, “The Federal Supreme Court was convened on Aug. 26, 2013, under the chairmanship of Judge Medhat al-Mahmoud, and the membership of each of the following judges: Farouk Mohammed al-Sami, Jaafar Nasser Hussain, Akram Taha Mohammed, Akram Ahmed Baban, Mohammed Saeb al-Naqshbandi, Abboud Saleh al-Tamimi, Michael Shamshoum Kas Korkis and Hussein Abou Taman. The court ruled unconstitutional the law limiting the terms of the president, prime minister and parliament speaker.”
Bayraktar said, “One of the reasons behind the ruling is that parliament has taken a path that is different from the one stipulated by the constitution and decided by constitutional jurisdiction.”
Bayraktar added, “The court's ruling states that limiting the prime minister’s term in office is contrary to the foundation of the political system, which is based on the will of the people.”
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Mohammed al-Hassan, a Shiite member of the ruling Iraqi National Alliance, said, "The federal court’s ruling will allow Maliki to run for a third term.”
Ali Shalla, a Shiite member of the State of Law Coalition, told Al-Monitor, “The State of Law Coalition, led by Maliki, was sure that the court would reject the law. ... The law was originally prepared to prevent Maliki from running for a third time for the premiership.”
The court’s ruling has caused disturbances in the movement of Shiite religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Amir al-Kanani, a prominent Shiite leader of the Sadrist Movement, said, “The peaceful transfer of power is at risk, and we will need external intervention if the current situation continues,” adding, “The ballot boxes will decide; the bloc that gets the majority [of votes] will form the government.”
As the court announced its ruling to invalidate the law, an informed source close to Maliki told Al-Monitor, “The preparations for Maliki to run for the post of prime minister, following the 2014 [general] elections, will have additional momentum.”
The source continued, “Everything is almost ready, and Maliki has communicated with international actors to make them new offers designed to persuade them to [support him in his run] for a third term.”
Yet, many observers believe that Maliki's task will be very difficult unless he is able to set up solid new alliances, particularly after losing Shiite allies such as the Sadrist movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), led by Ammar al-Hakim.
Maliki seems to have reached a political agreement with his Kurdish rival, Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, particularly since the Iraqi federal court decided to annul an article of the election law that requires the verification of voters registered in the province of Kirkuk.
The article, which the federal court decided to annul on Aug. 26, 2013, is Article 23 of the electoral law in the city of Kirkuk, an area that is disputed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, a source close to Maliki said “The recent rapprochement between Maliki and Barzani has led to a political agreement between the parties having to do with Maliki being prime minister for a third term, in exchange for concessions to the Kurds regarding Kirkuk and oil contracts.”
Ali Abel Sadah is a Baghdad-based writer for both Iraqi and Arab media. He has been a managing editor for local newspapers as well as a political and cultural reporter for more than 10 years.