A Legislation to End or to Strengthen Maliki?

January 30, 2013

The new law passed by the Iraqi parliament limiting the premiership to two terms is meaningless if the current political paralysis that is sweeping Iraq continues. It is meaningless because Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is the target of the legislation, has become too powerful to be contained by such a law.

He is now in control of the presidency of the republic because the acting president, Vice President Khudhair al-Khuzayii, is from his State of Law Party.

The new law is no more than another political message to Maliki, because he and his supporters can easily argue that it clearly goes against the rule of law by trying to legislate retroactively.

Looking at the legislation closely, it seems that the whole law is centered on two sentences. First: “The post of the prime minister must not be occupied by the same person for more than two consecutive or non-consecutive terms, be they before or after the passing of this law.” This part can easily be rebutted by the high court because it is trying to get laws to work retroactively.

The high court is most likely to say that this is unconstitutional and should apply only for the future. This would automatically give Maliki one new term.

The second important article in the law provides that: “For the purposes of implementing the rules of this law, a term is deemed complete if it ends by relieving of duty, resignation, passing a vote of no confidence or when parliament is dissolved.” Although this is designed with Maliki in mind, it poses a danger for future prime ministers who may not necessarily be like Maliki, or possess his behavior.

It puts them at the mercy of the powerful members of future parliaments. It weakens the government and strengthens those who are outside it.

The move is clearly designed to stop Maliki from being an autocratic ruler, but the current course of events is turning him to more than that. After managing to rally the Arab street against the Kurds, he is now managing to create an even wider rift between the Shiites and Sunnis of Iraq and is positioning himself to be the leader of the Shia. That is a very useful position to be in before the election.

The move to stop him from another term may be a good one, but it may have complicated the scene further. Perhaps it would have been easier to just pass a vote of no confidence against him, if 170 MPs had agreed to vote to prevent him from returning.

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