Monday, January 24, 2011

Premier Maliki Wins Control Of Iraq’s Election Commission

One of the major reasons why it took nine months for Iraqi politicians to come up with a partial cabinet for the new Iraqi government was widespread opposition to the rule of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Nearly every party was weary of the premier’s increasingly autocratic ways during his last administration. He has tried to place his followers throughout the security establishment and the bureaucracy, and used the security forces against his political foes. Now with talks still underway to fill the remaining ministries and the leadership in parliament comes a Supreme Court decision that will give Maliki more power in the future.

On January 18, 2011 the Federal Supreme Court ruled that the Iraqi Election Commission, along with all the other independent commissions and the Central Banks of Iraq, would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the parliament. The Court said that the commission will now be part of the cabinet, because the commission’s duties are executive in nature. That directly contradicted Article 102 of the constitution that says all the independent commissions are under the legislature. Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement immediately condemned the ruling saying that it was a strike against the constitution, and a blow to democracy.

The Federal Supreme Court is already considered under the sway of Prime Minister Maliki. During the deBaathification crisis before the March 2010 parliamentary election, the premier intervened with the court so that it sustained the appeals process already under way that led to most of the candidates remaining banned. Many of those barred from participating came from Maliki’s main rival, Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement. After the vote, the court again made a consequential ruling that the largest list that has the right to form a new government could be one formed either before or after the balloting. That allowed Maliki to join with the Sadrist-Supreme Council led Iraqi National Alliance, and claim he had the right to lead the next ruling coalition. That eventually secured his second term in office despite the fact that Allawi’s list won the most seats in the election.

Now with the latest court ruling the Prime Minister is attempting to concentrate more power in his hands. This time he wants to have direct influence over the Election Commission. Already, on January 21, a member of the Commission said Maliki had held up the assignment of 29 general managers to the Commission in order to check their qualifications. This is exactly the type of move that forges mistrust not only in Maliki, who is already disliked, but in the country’s fledging institutions as well. That is the real casualty here. Elections are only the most visible form of democracy. The rule of law and strong institutions are what sustain a democratic government. All of those have a cloud over them, and the latest move by Maliki and the Supreme Court will only make the forecast for the future worse.

SOURCES

Bakri, Nada, “Barred Politicians Mostly Secular, Iraqi Says,” New York Times, 1/22/10

Brosek, Raman, “Al-Iraqiya challenges ruling on parliamentary committees and describes Federal Court as “unconstitutional,”” AK News, 1/22/11

Danly, James, “Iraqi Elections Update,” Institute for the Study of War, 2/15/10

Hanna, Michael, Wahid, “How much do they hate Maliki?” Middle East Channel, Foreign Policy, 3/26/10

Reuters, "Critics alarmed as Iraq's Maliki centralises power," 1/23/11

Visser, Reidar, “The First Step of the New Maliki Government: Attaching the Independent Electoral Commission to the Executive,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 1/21/11

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