Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Maliki Goes After Rival Governments in Diyala, Wasit and Basra

 
In the last few months Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law (SOL) list has been moving against provincial governments in Diyala, Wasit, and Basra that largely excluded them after last year’s elections. The modus operandi has been the same all three governorates: a member of SOL on the provincial council sues the local administration over how the government was put together and the Maliki friendly courts have ruled them unconstitutional. That has led to the creation of two rival governments in Diyala, an attempt is underway to get rid of the one in Wasit, and Basra might be next.

State of Law first made a move against the Diyala provincial government. In October 2013, the Integrity Commission issued an arrest warrant for Governor Omar Humairi on corruption charges. At the same time, the Diyala National Coalition, which was just State of Law by then, went to court saying that how the ruling coalition was formed was illegal. The Diyala government was formed in June 2013 after provincial elections. It was made up of Iraqiya Diyala consisting of Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi’s Mutahidun and Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, the Kurdish Brotherhood and Coexistence List, and the Sadrists’ Ahrar/Liberal bloc. The Sadrists were originally part of the Diyala National Coalition, but abandoned it to shut State of Law out of the new administration. That was the basis for the SOL lawsuit.

Diyala Governor Humairi was removed by a State of Law initiated lawsuit (Al Masalah)

The court ruled in favor of State of Law, and this led to the creation of two rival administrations. First, Humairi claimed that Maliki didn’t have the authority to remove him. He ended up fleeing to Kurdistan to escape the warrant out for him. At the end of January 2014, his supporters in Iraqiya Diyala, the Sadrists and the Brotherhood and Coexistence List met in Khanaqin, a Kurdish controlled district of the province and re-elected Humairi governor. Just a few days beforehand the other members of the provincial council picked Muthanna al-Tamimi from Badr within the Diyala National Coalition as the new head of council, and Ameer Salman Yacoub as the new governor. The two rival governments condemned each other calling their elections illegal. Since Yacoub and Tamimi are in the provincial seat and have the support of Maliki they will have control of the province, while Humairi will be limited to the Kurdish controlled parts of Diyala. Despite this the premier accomplished his goal. A local government that had shut out his coalition was forced out, and now a friendly one was put in place. This was thanks to the courts, which are Maliki-friendly. With this model in place the prime minister moved on to other governorates.

A similar set of circumstances played out in Wasit. There, the Supreme Council’s Citizen’s Alliance and the Sadrists cooperated to form a ruling coalition of all the winning parties with the exception of State of Law. That gave the governorship to the Supreme Council and the head of council to Ahrar. Again, Maliki’s list sued claiming that the formation process was unconstitutional, and won a favorable ruling on March 3. (1) The provincial police chief was then issued orders to remove the government from office. That hasn’t happened yet, but Maliki has once again relied upon the judiciary to get rid of a provincial authority he did not agree with. Unlike in Diyala where State of Law was completely shut out of the administration, in Wasit it got the 2nd deputy governor position. That made the court decision all the more questionable, and highlights that the courts are in the pocket of the prime minister.

A third case is now pending against the Basra government. There State of Law won the most seats, 16 of 35 and got the head of council position, while the Citizen’s Alliance won the governorship. It appears SOL was not happy with that and now wants the top job. Just as in Diyala and Wasit a member of SOL has gone to court challenging how the ruling coalition was put together. March 6 the judiciary said that it was postponing the appeal against the Basra administration. Given the other two rulings however if Maliki wants the Basra government removed he will get it.

After the 2013 provincial elections State of Law was excluded from several local governments. This was mostly the work of the Sadrist’s Ahrar. It saw the opportunity to assert itself and take on the prime minister. Diyala and Wasit were two examples. Maliki was obviously not happy with that. He didn’t act immediately after the vote, but he is now taking his revenge by getting the Diyala and Wasit governments ruled illegal by the courts. Basra is a more blatant power play since SOL was part of the ruling coalition and has the head of the council. There it appears Maliki wants the governorship. There is little that these administrations can do since the premier has control of the judiciary, the purse, and the security forces. The rival administration of Humairi in Diyala can do little, and it’s yet to be seen how things will play out in Wasit and Basra. This is a very bad sign for Iraq’s developing democracy. It undermines the will of the voters since only in Basra did State of Law get the most votes. It also makes the whole process of putting together a government meaningless. Maliki’s manipulations of the courts means that even if his party was a minority they can remove any administration that displeases them and take power. Finally it is a foreboding series of events before this year’s election, because it could mean that the prime minister will resort to the courts if things do not go his way as a means to hold onto power.

FOOTNOTES

1. Sotaliraq, “Wasit police chief stripped the governor and members of his bloc of positions,” 3/6/14

SOURCES

AIN, “Diyala National Alliance; Majmayi, formal Governor of Diyala province,” 1/31/14
- “Diyala PC keeps session open till electing new governor,” 1/2/14
- “Diyala PC reveals arrest warrant against Governor,” 10/29/13
- “Urgent…Hameri elected as new governor of Diyala,” 1/30/14

Buratha News, “Choosing Amer Salman Yacoub governor of Diyala, succeeding Humairi winning the majority of votes,” 1/3/14
- “Diyala province announces an order to withdraw the hand of former portfolio,” 1/8/14

Al Forat, “Diyala former Governor escapes to Sulaymaniyah, says official,” 1/18/14

Independent Press Agency, “Iraqiya choose Amer Yacoub governor of Diyala,” 1/3/14

Al Mada, “Diyala administration “article” rejects the results of the session of Khanaqin and stresses: Humairi required judicial,” 1/31/14
- “Diyala governor: people who have lost their positions behind the rumors of the issuance of an arrest warrant for me,” 10/30/13
- “Hakim bloc in Basra confirms “the futility of” challenging the lawfulness of the local government by al-Maliki’s coalition,” 3/10/14
-“Iraqi Diyala provincial council sessions intersection: the new governor was dismissed by presidential decree,” 2/5/14
- “Three blocks in Diyala Council meet next Thursday to choose local government and deputy governor to fill “void,”” 1/28/14

Al Masalah, “Humairi: I am legally the governor of Diyala..The news of the withdrawal of hand untrue,” 1/9/14
- “Humairi: we will resort to court ot challenge the inauguration Nostra governor of Diyala because he is accused of terrorism,” 2/2/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “Diyala province council exempts the former governor, and his first deputy, from their posts officially,” 1/21/14

Shafaq News, “Presidency of the Republic ratify assignment of Amer al-Majmaee as Diyala governor,” 2/2/14
- “Source: Governor of Diyala disappears after Tamimi takes office,” 1/18/14

Sotaliraq, “Wasit police chief stripped the governor and members of his bloc of positions,” 3/6/14

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