Iraq Lawmakers See Maliki Power Grab In Banker's Ouster

Article Summary
An arrest warrant against the ousted governor of Iraq's Central Bank has prompted some lawmakers to accuse Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of a power grab, Oudai Hatem reports.

The issuance of a court order for the arrest of Sinan al-Shabibi, Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, while he was in Japan and then his dismissal and the appointment of a replacement, led to resentment and fears among some political blocs, which worried that “a trend was underway to reestablish the hegemony of the executive branch over all of the state’s institutions.”

While the Iraqiya List described the occurrence as similar to “what used to occur during the previous regime’s reign,” the Shiite National Alliance Bloc was divided in its opinion.

The evening before last [Oct. 16], the Iraqi cabinet announced Shabibi’s sacking on corruption charges, and appointed the head of the Supreme Audit Board, Abdel-Basit Turki, in his place. This occurred one day after an arrest warrant was issued for Shabibi, despite his being in Japan on official business.

The Iraqiya List considered this move “a serious threat to financial reserves,” with Adnan al-Danbous [one of its prominent members] saying that “this type of incident is occurring all too often, where officials are sent abroad on state business and then dismissed and slandered.”

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He viewed the incident as “similar to what Saddam Hussein used to do,” and added that “the Iraqiya List will not accept that anyone — especially Sinan al-Shabibi — be slandered, because he comes from a well-known family and the media should not be used to slander people when they have not yet been condemned in court.”

Danbous affirmed that “Shabibi is honest and not suspected of any wrongdoing. Our problem lies in the executive branch’s attempt to take control of everything while disallowing the existence of independent bodies. Shabibi’s dismissal is a step towards dominating the central bank, which is a serious threat to the financial reserves that Shabibi succeeded in maintaining.”

Furthermore, Sabah al-Saidi, who is an independent member of the Parliamentary Integrity Committee, criticized the government and considered that it had “failed to financially manage” [the country]. He said, during a news conference, that “Iraq’s financial policies are foolish and are akin to the previous regime’s foolishness, only worse.”

He clarified that “since the establishment of the Iraqi state in 1920 and until 2003, Iraq’s budgets did not exceed $18 billion; yet, since 2006 and until 2012, these budgets soared to $614 billion, which is enough to rebuild a whole new Iraq. Yet, what has been accomplished? Nothing.”

The Citizens Bloc, headed by Ammar al-Hakim, which represents the Supreme Islamic Council, warned of “a return to a one man dictatorship once control is extended to all independent bodies.”

Aziz al-Oukaili, another member of the Parliamentary Integrity Committee, denied that “the committee played any role in the central bank investigation or the recommendation to sack Shabibi.”

He stated that the investigation committee was comprised of Qusay al-Suhail, first deputy speaker of Parliament (from the Sadrist Movement); the head of the Parliamentary Finance Committee, Haidar al-Abadi (of the State of Law coalition headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki); and member of the Finance Committee, Haitham al-Jabouri (from the Maliki coalition), in addition to one member from the Supreme Audit Board. He added that “the Integrity Committee wanted to intervene but was told that the investigation related to technical, not corruption issues.”

Oukaili affirmed that “Shabibi’s accusation and sacking were prearranged. For the past year and a half, the executive branch has been trying to spread its control over the central bank and blatantly interfering in its work. The matter has nothing to do with corruption but is politically motivated and aimed at controlling all independent bodies, which they have now succeeded in doing. This threatens to diminish and put an end to parliament’s role, while paving the way for a one man rule.”

He added: “All the heads of independent bodies who refused to abide by the orders of the executive branch have faced smear campaigns. The head of the Electoral Committee, Faraj al-Haidari, was accused of 124 infractions, of which he was acquitted by the Court of Cassation because he was no longer in office and posed no threat to anyone.”

Oukaili also pointed out that “Articles 102 to 108 of the constitution provide for the autonomy of independent bodies and the supervisory role of parliament upon them. But the executive branch froze all of Shabibi’s powers, including his capacity to appoint employees or fire corrupt general managers, which absolves him from any wrongdoing.”

Oukaili expressed pessimism concerning “the situation in Iraq, because this move will sully the central bank’s reputation in front of the World Bank and other international forums, thus subjecting the Iraqi currency to significant risks.”

He said there was little possibility that “parliament or political blocs would take any action [in response], because of the divisions that they suffer from and them looking out for their own narrow interests. We are therefore headed towards a one man rule.”

He expressed surprise “that an arrest warrant was issued for Shabibi while he was abroad. This type of incident has occurred more than once, such as when former Trade Minister Abdel Falah al-Sudani was indicted while he was in Britain, and when an arrest warrant was issued for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi while he was in Kurdistan, as well as for former Minister of Communications Ali Allawi while he was abroad, which indicates the presence of a deliberate effort to remove political figures and discredit officials.”

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Found in: shiite-sunni conflict, iraqiya, corruption
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