Saturday, May 14, 2011

Iraq Completes Another Pieces Of The Government Puzzle By Voting On Vice Presidents

On May 12, 2011 Iraq’s parliament approved three vice presidents. Like all too many things in Iraqi politics, the election of the deputies dragged on for months, and was marked by false starts and brinkmanship. Still, this was one of the last pieces to finalize the Iraqi government, which has been under negotiation since the March 2010 elections.

After trying several times, the Iraqi parliament finally successfully confirmed the country’s vice presidents. They were the two vice presidents from the previous government, Adel Abdul Mahdi from the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and Tariq Hashemi of the Iraqi National Movement, plus newcomer Khudayr Khuzai, who is the head of the Dawa-Iraq party within Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list. They were all voted on at once, which had been an issue of contention before

New Vice President Khuzai
This was a victory for Premier Maliki as he got his nominee Khuzai through the legislature. Back in February, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement was complaining that the State of Law-Sadrist-SIIC led National Coalition was getting two vice presidents, Mahdi and Khuzai. They, the Sadrists, and the Kurdish Coalition also said they would not vote for Khuzai. The Sadr bloc for one accused him of corruption when he was Minister of Education under the first Maliki administration. Others were concerned about his ties to Tehran, because he ran a religious center in Qom, Iran while he was in exile there under Saddam Hussein. In mid-April this led State of Law to walk out of a parliamentary session meant to vote on the vice presidents because there was not enough support for Khuzai. Another problem was that all the way up to the final vote on the deputies, Turkmen politicians wanted one of the vice presidents to come from their ethnic group. Finally, the Kurdish Coalition had complained that three vice presidents was a waste of money, and that only one was necessary. By May all of that opposition faded away, and Maliki got his man into office. As happens all too many times, Iraq’s parties practiced brinkmanship, threatening each other and dragging out the process until the last minute until all of their complaints suddenly disappeared, and the vice presidents were all confirmed.

The ironic thing about this whole affair is that the vice presidents will have absolutely no power from now on. Previously there was a Presidential Council made up of President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Mahdi and Vice President Hashemi, all three of which had veto power over any legislation. That was only a temporary agreement to give a Kurd, a Shiite, and a Sunni equal power in an executive office. Now the deputies are simply symbolic posts, yet they were caught up in the power struggle between Iraq’s parties. With that finally overcome, there are only three remaining posts within the government, the very important security ministries, which are still vacant.


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