For several months now the Iraqi parliament has been requesting that Minister of Higher Education Ali al-Adeeb appear before it over charges that he abused the law, and followed a sectarian policy while in office. The Minister has repeatedly refused, and his list, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law has claimed that his summons is unconstitutional. On top of that, the party got the courts to rule that the legislature can only question high officials under special circumstances. This is just one sign of the parliament’s inability to do its job of overseeing the country's affairs.
Iraq’s parliament called on Higher Education Minister Ali al-Adeeb to appear before it on May 5, 2012. The request was made by members of the Iraqi National Movement (INM), which immediately criticized Adeeb for not showing up. (1) One lawmaker from the list said that the Minister had to follow the law, and blamed a weak parliament for not enforcing and following through with its powers. The INM wanted to question Adeeb about how he used the Accountability and Justice Law, which replaced the old deBaathification Law, to fire officials from Tikrit University, and whether that was done on a sectarian basis. The National Movement has threatened to hold a no confidence vote against him if he doesn’t answer their inquiries. The 2005 Constitution gives the parliament oversight rights, including the power to question ministers. It has largely neglected these duties however. One reason is that since 2005 every government has been a national unity one that includes every winning party. Each one receives at least one ministry as a reward for forming a coalition. The party bosses therefore have not wanted their officials to testify to parliament, because it would mean all of them would be open to such investigation. Another problem has been that the executive branch has consistently used delaying tactics through procedural and legal measures to delay any appearances. That is exactly what happened with the Adeeb case.
The Higher Education Ministry, and Adeeb’s State of Law list have repeatedly denied parliament has the right to question the Minister, and gone to court over the matter as well. The day before Adeeb was to appear, a spokesman for the Higher Education Ministry announced that he would not be going, because the process was illegal. He claimed that the courts, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, and a legal adviser to the cabinet all said that Adeeb did not have to go. A member of State of Law told the press that calling a minister before parliament was unconstitutional. Both assertions were blatantly wrong. That didn’t stop State of Law from going to the Iraqi Supreme Court to get its way. The judiciary ruled that the legislature has to come up with specific legal infractions committed by a minister for one to be questioned. Not only that, but it implied that having a minister testify to parliament was akin to an impeachment process. The Iraqi courts have increasingly come under the sway of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and this was just one more example of that. The judiciary has given the premier a number of favorable interpretations of the constitution, many of which are not based upon the actual document. The Supreme Court’s decision effectively blocks the INM from ever getting a chance to ask Adeeb about anything.
The Higher Education Minister is a controversial figure that started the latest crisis between the National Movement and Prime Minister Maliki. In June 2011, Adeeb said that the universities of Iraq needed to be deBaathified. On a website the Ministry warned that up to 700 professors would be removed as a result. In October, Adeeb announced that he was ready to purge Baathists from the country’s colleges, starting with 140 teachers who were fired from Tikrit University in Salahaddin that month. The Minister quoted the Accountability and Justice Law for removing the staff members. Not wanting to be outdone, Maliki then began a wave of arrests that rounded up several hundred alleged Baathists. As a response, Salahaddin’s provincial council declared that it wanted to become an autonomous region, with several other provinces following suit. This set off an immediate controversy throughout Iraq. Parliamentarians from Adeeb’s own State of Law criticized him, with one leading member saying that the Accountability and Justice Commission had not staff, which meant the Minister lied when he said he was following its rulings. Maliki later declared the Minister’s actions null and void, to try to calm down Salahaddin. This highlighted an internal struggle within State of Law, and the Dawa Party specifically. Adeeb is one of the major leaders within Dawa, and has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Maliki several times. The Minister has been accused of using his Ministry to build up support, and the firing of alleged Baathists might have been just such a case of him acting unilaterally to win over Shiites who still fear the return of the former regime. Adeeb’s actions in Salahaddin were the reason why the INM wanted him to appear before the parliament. The problem was that while State of Law was willing to condemn Adeeb, they were not willing to have their major rival, the National Movement, question him. That has led to the current deadlock.
The Iraqi parliament is supposed to be one of the main oversight bodies within the government. It has the power to call before it ministers to testify, the right to pass laws, and is supposed to work with the anti-corruption agencies to investigate matters. Since 2005, it has rarely exercised these duties. Instead, it has been run by party bosses who do not want their officials questioned for fear that it would set a precedent that they might actually be held accountable, and that the committees rather than the bosses might have authority. The executive branch has also tried to increase its powers, and has ignored, delayed or called illegal any moves by parliament to provide a check on it. There is added pressure to do that when a party like the Iraqi National Movement wants to question a minister like Adeeb from the rival State of Law. That’s what has allowed ministers like Adeeb to abuse their powers, and others to line their pockets with public funds, because no one is ever made to answer for their actions.
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