Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Open Season On Out-Going Provincial Officials

In January 2009 Iraq conducted its second provincial elections since the U.S. invasion. All of the new provincial councils and governors have been named. As national leaders in Baghdad have been caught up in an anti-corruption fury, so too have these new local politicians. Several have gone after their outgoing peers, but for much different reasons than their counterparts in the capital.

In early June 2009 the new Diyala council issued arrest warrants for the two former deputy governors Razzaq al-Khalisi and Aouf Rahoumi. Both were accused of stealing money. Rahoumi, who belonged to the Iraqi Islamic Party, fled to Germany as soon as he found out about the charges. Khalisi, an independent Shiites, escaped to Kurdistan. The Public Integrity Committee, the main anti-corruption agency in Iraq, believes that the two were involved in stealing up to $130 million from the province. In April the former head of the Diyala council Ibrahim Hassan Bajilan of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan also had a warrant put out for him. He is allegedly involved with embezzling up to $128 million. The former provincial council was ruled by the Coalition of Islamic & National Forces in Diyala, an alliance of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and the Dawa Party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Kurdish Arabic Turkmen Democratic Coalition – Diyala, made up of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

At the same time Salahaddin went after its health director, while the former head of the Karbala council was arrested. On June 8, Salahaddin fired the provincial director of the health department Hassan Zein al-Abedeen Naqi. He was accused of signing fake contracts, making illegal deals over medicine purchases, and housing relatives in Health Ministry buildings. The council said that his case was being sent to the Integrity Committee. On June 1, police arrested the outgoing head of the Karbala provincial council Abdulaal al-Yasseri for corruption as well. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council controlled the governorate after the 2005 elections.

Baghdad is currently embroiled in corruption investigations as well. In May 2009 the Trade Minister Abdulfalah al-Sudani was forced to resign, and later arrested. Sudani and his two brothers were accused of misappropriating money meant for the country’s food ration system, the largest in the world. Parliament, and its new speaker Ayad al-Samarraie of the Iraqi Islamic Party forced Sudani’s resignation. Samarraie is intent on increasing the power of the legislature to provide a check on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s power. Sudani was a member of Maliki’s Dawa Party and reportedly close to the Prime Minister. In response, Maliki has promised a crackdown on corruption as well. It’s likely that he will use this against his opponents in retaliation for Sudani’s arrest.

National and local leaders appear to have different intentions when it comes to corruption. The leaders of the main political parties in Baghdad seem most concerned about obtaining power at each other’s expense. The main struggle now appears to be between Maliki and the Iraqi Islamic Party, which has become the Prime Minister’s main critic. At the provincial level, many politicians are more concerned about getting their governments working. In Diyala for example, the three major parties that ruled the province after 2005 still rule it today. That didn’t stop them from going after some of their own. Politics are so divided in Iraq that it’s likely this difference will continue for quite some time.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Former Iraqi officials accused of corruption flee to Germany via Kurdistan,” 6/10/09

Alsumaria, “Diyala former governor deputies to be held,” 6/10/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Ex-trade minister appears before Samawa court on corruption charges,” 6/1/09
- “Former deputy governor escapes to Germany following corruption charges,” 6/8/09
- “Karbala provincial council ex-chairman arrested,” 6/1/09
- “Salah el-Din council sacks health official over financial corruption,” 6/8/09

Bakri, Nada, “Iraqi Leader Sees Fraud as a Top Worry,” Washington Post, 5/10/09

Chon, Gina, “Graft Case Against Ex-Minister Splits Iraq Parties,” Wall Street Journal, 6/1/09

Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009

Sly, Liz, “Ex-trade minister arrested after attempting to flee Iraq,” Los Angeles Times, 5/31/09

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

A couple points re Diyala

1) Provincial Councils do not have the power to issue arrest warrants - that is an executive function.

2) Former Assistant Governor Abdul Razzaq has, in fact, been arrested rather than fleeing to Kurdistan. This has been (correctly) reported by Al Sharqiyah among other sources.

3) It is somewhat controversial to suggest that "the three major parties that ruled (Diyala) after 2005 still rule it". In the former PC, 20 of 41 seats belonged to the Shia Coalition giving it a predominant sway on the Council, although leadership positions were distributed also to IIP and the Kurds. In terms of actual power, the PC had very little power vis-a-vis the Governor (a Shia). In the current Council, the predominant party is the IIP and the Shia parties (running separately) received only five of 29 seats. Further, the Shia coalition broke down with ISCI participating in the governing coalition and Dawa and Jafari's party opposing it. (In addition, the Shia vote was fragmented with many votes going to parties that did not receive representation.) So many Shia are skeptical of the current government and Sunni supporters of IIP would consider that they had only minimal influence within the previous council. Those who would describe the current council as a continuation of the previous one would be those in the secular parties in opposition (Mutlaq's National Project List and Allawi's Iraqi National List). How effective the Council will be in relation to the Governor remains to be seen.

motown67 said...

Anonymous said:

It is somewhat controversial to suggest that "the three major parties that ruled (Diyala) after 2005 still rule it".

I know that the number of seats changed on the council, but it was my impression that the alliance between the Iraqi Islamic Party/Accordance Front, the SIIC and the Kurds was still together as the ruling coalition in Diyala hence my comment.

In 2005 the governor was from Badr, the SIIC/Dawa list had 20 seats, the Islamic Party 14, and the Kurds 7.

After 2009 the same parties have a ruling coalition there with the governor from the Accordance Front, the Deputy Gov from the SIIC, and the head of the council from the Kurdish list.

motown67 said...

Obviously Maliki's State of Law broke away in 2009. Forgot to mention that.

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