Iraq Pulse

Iraq’s Future Uncertain Amid Political Turmoil

Article Summary
As disputes persist among Iraq’s governmental branches, it is unlikely that a resolution will be reached anytime soon.

The recent quarrel, exchange of accusations and threats — which took place between the head of Iraq’s executive branch, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the head of the legislative branch, parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi — cannot be considered a sound situation that is able to serve the future of democracy in this country.

We are not referring here to differences and settlements that have reached between the legislative and executive branches in the judicious democratic experiments. The latter are the ideal way to make sure that performance is controlled, and vitality and transparency are added to political life.

The developments regarding the aggravated and tense relationship between the various branches of power in Iraq are completely different. They did not only lead to the stagnated and ineffective performance of all branches, but they have also resulted in serious social and security repercussions, and in the use of the available issues in the conflict for political purposes.

There are also reasons that led to this reality. The legislative and executive branches were selected based on a [certain] vision of representation or sectarian quotas. Based on that, the premiership went to a Shiite, the post of speaker of the house of representatives to a Sunni, whereas the Kurds assumed the role of the president, who is supposed to make sure that powers are separated and they coordinate with each other in accordance with the constitution. 

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In its turn, this distribution has affected the performance of the branches themselves. These positions have begun to reflect the tendency of the sect and group controlling them, instead of representing the view of each branch.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s absence — as a result of illness — is probably one of the reasons behind the exacerbation of the recent crisis. Talabani has constantly served as the safety valve in the relationship between the various branches. This is despite that he has not practiced his full constitutional powers in this regard, and has relied on his personal character and ties with the various parties to reach previous significant settlements.

At present, Iraq stands at a crossroads. Maliki not only accuses the parliament of obstructing his government’s performance, but also confirms the presence of [MPs] involved in terrorism, and believes that the recent security breakdown was caused by the legislature.

In turn, Nujaifi not only accuses Maliki of controlling the country’s security and political decisions, along with hindering the parliament’s role, but he also believes that he is responsible for all of the recent security and political meltdowns.

The judicial branch is not excluded from this conflict. It is sometimes accused of surrendering itself to the will of the executive branch, and sometimes of giving in to the will of political parties and threats from within parliament.

Months have passed without the Iraqi parliament holding an active session in which they were able to discuss the real crises. These sessions — which were held from time to time, with this or that bloc boycotting — were merely a formality, and did not provide any genuine proposals. 

The government has been subjected to major setbacks, and Maliki admitted that social peace is truly threatened.

As a result, cooperation has not taken place between the branches of government in Iraq. It is unlikely that any political solution will be reached without this cooperation. The alternative [solution] that has been implemented for years is that the legislative institution — which represents the backbone of the modern Iraqi state — has practically handed over its decisions to the leaders of major [parliamentary] blocs, who prefer making or cutting communications with each other outside, not inside, parliament. Moreover, the blocs’ leaders have chosen not to communicate with each other and postponed current differences until the next elections were held.

The intrinsic problem is that elections — which are scheduled for early 2014 in Iraq — are not likely to lead to genuine and decisive changes regarding the weight of political blocs or major shifts in the views of their social groups. Therefore, postponing a solution to the crisis and failing to achieve balance and cooperation among the branches, to have a clear road map for the future, will probably represent the name of the game in the future, as it does today.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi is an Iraqi writer specializing in defense of democracy. He has extensive experience in documenting testimony and archiving documentaries associated with repressive practices.

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Found in: security, sectarianism, sectarian, nouri al-maliki, iraqi politics, iraqi central government, iraq

Mustafa al-Kadhimi is a former columnist and editor of the Iraq Pulse for Al-Monitor. His writing specializes in the defense of democracy and human rights. He has extensive experience documenting testimonies and archiving documentaries associated with repressive practices. He has written many books, including "The Iraq Question, Islamic Concerns" and "Ali Ibn Abi Talib: The Imam and the Man". Most notably, his "Humanitarian Concerns" was selected in 2000 by the European Union as the best book written by a political refugee.

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