Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ministerial Boycott Of Iraq’s Cabinet Over Protests Breaking Down

In the wake of arrest warrants being issued for former Finance Minister Rafi Issawi’s bodyguards in December 2012, protests and an eventual boycott of the cabinet by several ministers began. The Agricultural Minister Izz al-Din al-Dawla left in March 2013 after demonstrators were killed and wounded by security forces in Mosul. Industry Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Dalli Karbuli, Technology Minister Abdul al-Karim al-Samarraie, and Education Minister Mohammed Tamim followed suit after the Hawija incident in April. Tamim is now returning to the council of ministers, while Dawla has also reportedly attended at least one cabinet session. All four ministers come from the now defunct Iraqi National Movement (INM), which was one of the prime minister’s main opponents. The four however, all had friendly relations with Maliki, and broke with their list several times beforehand. It is no wonder than that they should eventually return to their jobs, and resume their work.

Education Minister Tamim recently announced that he was returning to office after a short boycott over the Hawija incident in April 2013 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

On May 22, 2013, Industry Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Dalli Karbuli announced that Education Minister Mohammed Tamim was returning to his position. Tamim resigned in April after the security forces attacked protesters in the town of Hawija. Karbuli, and Technology Minister Abdul al-Karim al-Samarraie joined him. The month before, Agricultural Minister Izz al-Din al-Dawla gave up his office after demonstrators were killed and wounded in his hometown of Mosul. Its recently been reported that he has attended at least one cabinet session recently as well. Tamim is from Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Karbuli is from the Solution Movement, Samarraie is a member of the Renewal Party, while Dawla belongs to Speaker Nujafi’s old Iraqiyoon party that is now part of Mutahidun, the Uniters List. All of them gained office through the Iraqi National Movement (INM) after the 2010 parliamentary vote. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki immediately rejected Tamim’s resignation. That was likely due to their close relationship beforehand. In fact, all four have consistently broken with their list to work to stay part of the government.  

In December 2011 and March 2013, the INM announced that it was withdrawing its ministers from the cabinet to protest Maliki’s government, but neither worked. At the beginning of March, the National Movement stopped going to the council of ministers to support the protesters. In less than a month, Education Minister Tamim, Industry Minister Karbuli, and Deputy Premier Mutlaq were all back at meetings, which helped lead to the end of the INM as a coherent list. Before that, at the end of 2011, the INM held another unsuccessful boycott against the prime minister. Karbuli, Tamim, and several other National Movement ministers never followed their party. Samarraie, Tamim, and Dawla all eventually met with the premier letting him know that they wanted to return to their offices, which effectively put an end to the boycott. In turn, Maliki gave them concessions, such as releasing 43 prisoners directly to Tamim’s protection in February 2012. The conventional wisdom on Iraq is that the government and country is wracked by sectarianism, and the divide between Sunnis and Shiites is becoming worse by the day. That’s how the increasing violence is also explained. This overlooks the fact that several Sunni ministers such as Karbuli, Tamim, Samarraie, and Dawla have actually had quite friendly relations with Maliki, and have been more than willing to work within his government, even when that directly contradicted their list’s strategy.

Given the protest movements and occasional violence the government has used against them it was predictable that these ministers would again step away from the government. At the same time, it was foreseeable that they would eventually come back to the cabinet as well. They did that the last two times they were supposed to be boycotting, and all of them will likely do so again on this occasion. Not only do they not have as many issues with Premier Maliki as some of their brethren, but they also lose out on the patronage and power that holding a ministry bestows upon them. That is another driving force for them to go back to work. If nothing else, the power, money, and corruption that accompanies holding office is one of the great unifiers that exists in the country.


AIN, “Urgent….Karbouli: Timim to resume his work as Minister of Education,” 5/22/13
- “Urgent….Maliki rejects Education minister’s resignation,” 4/23/13

Ibrahim, Haidar, “Iraqiya’s controversial remarks over ministers’ boycott termination,” AK News, 1/13/12
- “Maliki to tackle absent minister issue soon, advisor says,” AK News, 12/29/11
- “Protest-related violence kills 53 in Iraq,” Agence France Presse, 4/24/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “Iraqiya calls on Mutlaq to review his position and not be a false witness,” 3/27/13
- “Iraqiya: Statement ascribed to Al-Ani allowing some ministers attend cabinet session not accurate,” 1/12/12
- “Jubouri: three IS ministers return to ministries evidence of patriotic awareness,” 2/1/12
- “MP demands Iraqiya to hold a meeting to overcome differences,” 3/31/13
- “Nijaifi calls on Iraqiya ministers to resign,” 3/8/13

Sadah, Ali Abel, “Iraqiya List Frays As Constituents Splinter,” Al-Monitor, 3/28/13

Schreck, Adam and Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq fears rise as clashes spread to northern city,” Associated Press, 4/25/13

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 31,” 1/25/12
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 32,” 2/9/12
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 33,” 2/29/12

Visser, Reidar, “How Iraq can pull back from the brink,” The National, 5/22/13

Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraqi minister resigns after protesters shot,” Associated Press, 3/8/13


AndrewSshi said...

Isn't the cumulative effect of this sort of thing just going to be that the people of Anbar, Saladin, and the western neighborhoods of Baghdad basically don't think that they can rely on their elected representatives to have their back against the central government?

Joel Wing said...

Depends upon the politician. Deputy PM Mutlaq appears to have completely fallen off. Fmr Finance Minister Issawi maintained his popularity and was the initial cause of the on going protests. He got a much different reception than VP Hashemi for instance.

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