By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Controversial new law could make Iraq’s early elections late

The Iraqi parliament, under public pressure from months of widespread protests, has passed a new electoral law that still leaves protesters and parties representing Kurds and Sunni Arab areas far from satisfied. The law has yet to reach the president’s desk to be ratified.

However, it’s not just the new law, approved Dec. 24 by the Iraqi federal parliament, that has ignited disputes between political parties, but also a controversial addendum relating to the organization of electoral districts.

Click here to read the full story.

Draft election law: UN calls for improvements to meet public demands

Electoral reform has been a central demand of many peaceful protesters.

In recent weeks, Iraqi authorities have sought to find legislative solutions that address public calls for credible, free and fair elections. This process is Iraqi-owned and Iraqi-led, as it must be.

United Nations electoral experts have provided additional technical support, including by sharing international best practices.

The draft electoral legislation – currently under review by the Council of Representatives – requires improvements to meet public demands.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, noted that:

It is the prerogative of the Council of Representatives to examine this legislation as it sees fit. However, I would like to urge the parliamentarians to act on their constituents’ legitimate demands for credible, free and fair elections.

“I sincerely hope that their choices will reflect the public appetite for a new and different way of conducting politics, restoring the hope of many Iraqis in a brighter tomorrow. The United Nations stands ready to assist in the development of electoral legislation which fully meets the aspirations of the Iraqi people”.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

On Sunday, the UN issued the following statement on the crisis facing Iraq:

Over the past weeks, demonstrations erupted in Baghdad and other governorates in Iraq. Protester demands cover a wide spectrum of issues, including economic growth and employment, reliable public services, prudent and impartial governance, an end to corruption, credible elections as well as broader reform of the political system – including amendments to the constitution.

An accumulation of frustrations about the lack of progress in the last 16 years is clearly perceptible, and with rising numbers of deaths and injured (both protesters and members of the Iraqi Security Forces) a climate of anger and fear has set in. The Iraqi people cannot afford to be held back by the past nor by partisan interests.

Rising hope asks for a leap forward, including the understanding that – in today’s digital age – daily life has moved online. Meanwhile, the risk of ‘spoilers’ hijacking peaceful demonstrations is increasing and potentially derailing any attempt at genuine change. Time is therefore of the essence, as are tangible results.

To start with, and following consultations with a wide range of Iraqi parties, actors and authorities (including the three Presidencies, the Supreme Judicial Council, protesters and union representatives), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) proposes the following principles and measures:

PRINCIPLES

The following principles apply to all parties at all times:

  1. Protect the right to life above all.
  2. Guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression,
    as granted in the constitution.
  3. Practice maximum restraint in the handling of the protests, including no use of live ammunition, ban the improper use of non-lethal devices (such as tear gas canisters).
  4. Deliver full accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims.
  5. Act in keeping with the law, including in regard to public and private properties.

MEASURES

Immediate measures (less than a week) include:

  1. Release all peaceful demonstrators detained since 1 October, in accordance with the law.
  2. No peaceful demonstrators shall be targeted.
  3. Initiate full investigation of cases of abduction (including by making available CCTV footage), and reveal the identity of those responsible.
  4. Accelerate the identification and prosecution of those responsible for targeting demonstrators.
  5. Prosecute and punish those responsible for the excessive use of force and/or other violent acts, in accordance with the law.
  6. Publicly call on all regional and international parties not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, respecting its sovereignty.

Short term measures (within one week to two weeks) include:

  1. Electoral reform: With the technical support of the UN, a single legal framework shall be finalized. Soon after, the framework shall be submitted to the Council of Representatives (CoR). The parliamentary procedure shall be completed as soon as possible.
  2. Security Sector Reform: Executive Order 237 shall be fully implemented without delay. Any weapons outside state control shall be prohibited. Any outlaw armed entity or rogue element shall be considered illegal and it is the state’s responsibility to take them on.
  3. Corruption: The political elite shall lead by example, for instance by publicly declaring their assets – at home and abroad, held under their own name or another. Additionally, political parties/blocs and movements shall abolish their economic committees.

Medium term measures (within one to three months) include:

  1. Constitution: With the technical support of the UN, the Constitutional Review Committee shall continue its work. Any amendment to the constitution shall be put to referendum by the people of Iraq.
  2. Corruption: The Commission of Integrity shall submit corruption cases to the High Judicial Council or the Central Anti-Corruption Court. The Central Anti-Corruption Court shall handle corruption cases at all levels of the state. All corrupt officials will be held accountable and prosecuted.
  3. Enactment of laws: The Government shall send the following draft laws to the CoR, and the CoR shall complete its due process as soon as possible:
    1. A law addressing the principle: ‘Where did you get this from?
    2. The Federal Court Law
    3. The Social Security Law
    4. Law on resolving the Housing Crisis
    5. The Oil and Gas (Hydrocarbon) Law
    6. Amending the Law on Encouraging Investments and Public-Private Sector Partnership
    7. The Council of Ministers and Ministries Law
    8. The Reconstruction Council Law

(Source: UNAMI)

By John Lee.

  • Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi agrees to resign, asking political blocs to agree on an acceptable alternative to prevent a constitutional void
  • President Salih agrees to snap elections, following new electoral law
  • Electoral Commission to be replaced with fully independent Commission by judges and legal experts

The following announcement was made on the President’s official website:

President Salih confirmed that he would approve early elections by adopting to the new electoral Law and a new Electoral Commission.

Addressing the Iraqis People on Thursday evening, president Salih said that, “The Prime Minister had agreed to resign, asking political blocs to agree on an acceptable alternative, taking into their considerations the constitutional and legal contexts that would prevent a constitutional void.”

The President added that,” I personally continue deliberations and meetings with various political blocs, forces and popular activities, in order to bring about the desired reforms, within constitutional and legal contexts, in a way that preserves Iraq’s stability, protects public security and enhances higher national interests.”

His Excellency Salih indicated that, the demands of the Iraqi people have put us at stake. In dire situations, difficulties and hardships honest, loyal persons and the genuine patriots’ men appear to do something good for their country and people as well. The status quo is certainly unsustainable. We really need significant changes that must be made, he highlighted.

The President stressed that, rapid action is required to be taken under the legal responsibility to hold offenders accountable and those who use excessive violence against protestors in the recent violence therefore those should be brought to stand trial. Their cases should be settled with high responsibility. We have to work with great care to prevent any attempt to breach security. There is a need to embark the effective implementation of the principle of improving regulation of weapons in the country by the State alone, not by outlaw actors, he noted.

The following is the text of President Salih’s speech.

O Brothers, Sons in the Squares of demonstrations, Dears members of our Security forces and O great Iraqis,

Peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon all of you.

At this critical juncture, while I am addressing you, I embark my direct speech to being by reiterating once again my bias towards you with my feelings, emotions, efforts, and with all I have role, power, which I have drawn from you.

O Youth of Iraq, you are our hopes, awakening, a clear conscience and the high national voice that only through you, we can affirm our national glory as we will face the challenges and fight corruption. We can stand together to prevent those want to harm Iraqis.

We are with you in your peaceful demonstrations, your legitimate demands, redressing justice, combating corruption and with you to improve neglected and marginalized sectors. We are with you while you are carrying Iraqi flags and banners highly so as the homeland will remain for all Iraqis and that your demonstrations will be the wall of the homeland and its impenetrable fence.

We are with your peaceful demonstrations as we are against any oppression and assaulting.

I direct my speech for you and security forces who are your brothers. They are you, and you are them. You are not two opposing teams. You express your demands while they keep you and maintain security, order, and the security of our country and our people as well.

Support the security forces is our responsibility. It would be in everyone’s interest for the demonstrators to succeed in freely and peacefully expressing their demands, and for our security forces to succeed in keeping the public security and preventing those who might be tempted to penetrate and abuse demonstrations.

This brotherhood among the demonstrators and the army and security forces, helped to turn these large demonstrations into great celebrations of Iraqi patriotism and the rise of national flags and national anthem in the streets and squares with the determination of millions of young people.

This was achieved by the will of the noble families in Baghdad and the governorates that participated and embodied the deep meanings of the people’s unity in the most brilliant images of unity, fraternity and solidarity.

Together, we can maintain public security and public and private property, and the homeland as well.

There is no security solution. The suppression of demonstrations is disallowed. The use of force and violence is rejected.

The solution lies in reforms. The solution is that everyone has to come together in order to keep public security and to face criminals who want to harm Iraq.

as I speak about the relationship of the demonstrators with the security forces, I refer to the important points that were addressed by Marjaiya last Friday and its weight the current historical moment for our country and our people.

O free people of Iraq,
History teaches us that the voice of the people is stronger than any vote, the will of the people is the best, and the future of Iraq is our goal to be a bright and prosperous future.

The government is demanded to be a government of the people as has been guaranteed by constitution, and required by Iraqis’ sacrifices.

What is required is swift action by legal responsibility so that those offenders as well as those who used excessive violence recently against protestors must be brought to stand trial. These cases shall be filed to the court to be settled as soon as possible. Working with great care and caution to prevent any attempt to breach security is also needed.

In these circumstances, the importance of the weapon being in the hands of the State is confirmed once again. We expect double action by the government and its institutions to embark the effective implementation of the principle of improving state regulation of weapons in the country by the State alone, not by outlaw entities. We have only one way to maintain security and keep our people safe by that the monopoly over arms will be with the state. This will help us to control security and avoid infighting and among armed groups whenever these groups disagreed on their issues.

At this juncture, an extraordinary work of Parliament is necessary. The parliament, which is the voice of the people and its national representative base, should be the first to address the demands of the demonstrators, and these demands should be implemented legislatively and overseen them. Defaulting and corrupt officials must be brought to stand trial.

We confirm that the files on corruption have been brought to justice to be determined in accordance with applicable laws and provisions. This subject is sensitive as it has a high priority. We have to deal with the grand corruption cases with absolute transparency and loyalty to the law and public rights.

We hope for a joint work between the Legislative and Executive Authorities that goes beyond routine frameworks and helps to re-bridge the gap between the government and the people.

I would like to point out that we have already embarked on a continuous work for a new convincing Electoral Law addressing the problems of the former law, allowing more just and more representative elections to the interests of the people, including the right to run for youth, protecting the votes of the electorate and preventing fraud. The Electoral Commission will be replaced by fully independent Commission by judges and legal experts.

This Commission will be far from politicization and partisan quota. It parts and departments will be reconstructed professionally without taking into consideration the politicization and partisan quota.

Next week, we expect to present the Bill, which we are working cooperatively with the Departments of Presidency and a Number of competent and independent experts in addition to the United Nations experts.

We are also at the Presidency started to sponsor a national dialogue to work for addressing the structural shortcomings in the system of government according to constitutional and democratic contexts, that meet the Iraqis’ demands to a have a good government which goes beyond the past experience.

We are helped in this mission by a selection of competent and independent experts and jurists.

I would like to stress that as the President I will agree to snap elections by adopting a new election law and new Electoral Commission.

The legitimacy of governance can only come from the people.

O dear Iraqis people,
The Prime Minister had agreed to resign, asking political blocs to agree on an acceptable alternative, taking into their considerations the constitutional and legal contexts that would prevent a constitutional void.

I personally continue deliberations and meetings with various blocs, powers and popular activities, in order to bring about the desired reforms, within constitutional and legal contexts, in a way that preserves Iraq’s stability, protects public security and promotes higher national interests.

The status quo is certainly unsustainable. We really need significant changes that must be made.

The demands of the Iraqi people have put us at stake. In dire situations, difficulties and hardships honest, loyal persons and the genuine patriots’ men appear to do something good for their country and people as well.

They appear to make the ordeal and hardness a means of advancements and progress. We need to take advantage of these conditions, to prevent the rush as well as relapsing back into conflict.

Whether we are a government, a parliament or a popular activity, the responsibility is the duty of all of us to protect the nation from the futility and the bad intentions of those who do not want us to get rid of corruption, so I call upon you and ourselves to protect our homeland and keep peaceful demonstrations so that we can all achieve legitimate demands and promote a healthy Iraq.

I am with you, and I will stay with you, and I will do my utmost to implement people’s demands. I am following with exceptional interest the investigation into cases of demonstration’s martyrs and the wounded. My heart and my deepest feelings with their gracious families, those who deserve all the justice and State’s appreciation.

There is no favor to everyone for this fairness. It’s our responsibility. Otherwise, there is no good in any post held by a senior or high official if it can’t serve people, address poverty, bring justice, maintain country and pay tribute to the people.

Indeed, Iraq deserves our serious consideration and a lot of our interesting.

Let the peace, democracy, security, progress, rising and dignity of Iraqis be a goal that unites all of us.

God save you.

Through you, Iraq will be maintained.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, Presidency of Iraq)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Mustafa Habib.

Drama On Iraq’s Councils After Provincial Elections Are Cancelled Again

Conflict at federal level is complicating local politics too. Provincial elections have not been held for five years and council leadership no longer reflects the country’s new political reality.

In the weeks before the end of the year, Iraq’s provincial councillors saw plenty of drama. There were attempted dismissals of various governors, actual dismissals and political coups and in-fighting among state-level politicians.

In mid-December, a new governor was chosen for Baghdad by councillors representing parties at federal level. But then other councillors, representing opposition parties at federal level, chose a completely different new governor.

Members of two groups – the Sairoun alliance led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the National Wisdom party, led by another cleric, Ammar al-Hakim – chose the first new governor. Then, provincial councillors from the parties that oppose those two groups stepped in and selected another candidate from their own ranks instead.

At this stage, the Iraqi president, Barham Saleh, intervened, refusing to ratify either candidate and referring the matter to the courts.

A similar situation arose in Basra where provincial council members who tried to elect a new governor were prevented from doing so by protestors outside the council buildings, who supported the sitting governor. The involvement of security staff meant that a vote could not be held. And in Najaf, the sitting governor there was also dismissed. More firings are expected in other Iraqi provinces too.

Why the drama? Because the country has not held provincial elections since 2013 and in many areas, the current provincial council does not reflect the contemporary political realities brought about by federal elections last year.

By rights, provincial elections to select local councillors should have been held in 2017. However the ongoing security crisis and the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State meant this was impossible. The federal government then decided to combine provincial elections with federal ones, to be held in May 2018, but again failed to do this.

The next date for the provincial elections was supposed to be December 22, 2018, but yet again the federal government – this time the new one headed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi – decided not to hold them. A new date was not set and election authorities say it will be too difficult to hold provincial elections in 2019.

The Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, has not been working properly for the past few months because, ever since the May 2018 federal elections, there have been all sorts of other concerns, explains Hazem al-Rudaini, a member of IHEC.

“The debate about the integrity of the federal elections, the various appeals and the recounts overseen by a judicial authority,” al-Rudaini listed the reasons. “All of this has impacted on the Commission’s work and makes it impossible to hold the provincial elections anytime in the coming six months at least.”

Amendments to the laws and rules around provincial elections are being discussed by IHEC and relevant federal authorities and politicians, al-Rudaini said, but “all that will take time”.

In fact, senior members of IHEC have been summoned to parliament to discuss this issue because some of the provincial appointments are now unconstitutional – for example, a governor cannot be a sitting MP at the same time yet some are. Additionally, the provincial councils hardly reflect the outcome of the federal elections, which saw the al-Sadr-backed Sairoun alliance win the most votes. In fact, that is part of what has caused the recent problems: The winning political parties are forcing through new alliances at provincial level, that allow them to remove the sitting governors who belong to other now-less-popular parties.

“We refuse to allow the current provincial councils to carry on working,” Rami al-Sukaini, an MP for the Sairoun alliance, told NIQASH. “There are proposals now that allow them to keep working for the next six months, and others to remove them and give parliament the power of supervise provincial councils, until provincial elections can be held.”

Iraq Initiative to Empower Women Candidates run Parliamentary Polls

In order to promote the equal opportunities for women to play their role as an active agent of society and due to the importance of political empowerment, participation and mobilization of women in the Democratic Government in Iraq, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as part of its governance programme to strengthen electoral processes in Iraq, launched an initiative to empower and develop capacities of 200 women candidates, from various political coalitions, who took part in the recent parliamentary elections in Iraq.

Political and electoral processes should be inclusive of women and acknowledge a special circumstances and needs. Women’s participation and representation is supported by many international frameworks, including CEDAW, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, UNSCR 1325, UN Resolution on Women and Political Participation, and the 2030 Agenda. These frameworks acknowledge that women’s participation is fundamental to democracy and essential to the achievement of sustainable development and peace.

This initiative was aimed at strengthening women candidates capacities with a team of experts on electoral laws and regulations, leadership skills, communication using mass and social media (interviews and public speech), formulation of political messages, political campaigns and importance of gender equality. This training carried out in collaboration with Um-Alyateem for Development Foundation UDF, a local NGO, consisted of eight workshops targeting 25 women candidates each. An electronic platform for candidates who engaged in the program was created to exchange experiences and address questions through Facebook and viber. All candidates’ interviews were collected and disseminated by a YouTube channel since April 15th.

The Country Director of UNDP in Iraq, Mr. Gerardo Noto said: “Gender equality and women’s political participation are at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Indeed, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 and its target 5.5 aim to ensure ‘women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life,’ and are crucial to establish inclusive institutions at all levels, as called by SDG 16”.

The recent Report of the Secretary-General on Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (E/2017/66) unveiled that “globally, women’s participation in single or lower houses of national parliaments reached 23.4 per cent in 2017, just 10 percentage points higher than in 2000. Such slow progress suggests that stronger political commitment and more ambitious measures are needed to boost women’s political participation and empowerment.” In the Arab States, the average percentage of women’s participation in national parliaments is only 18%. This constitutes the second lowest performing region for female representation.

UNDP Gender Specialist, Ms. Sundus Abbas stated “UNDP not only believes in the importance of supporting the participation of women in the political process but also it is convinced of the key roles of women on political levels and the added value that women bring to policies, therefore UNDP promote gender team in IHEC with tools and methods to insure  gender perspective in electoral process”.

Dr. Amira AlBaldawi, the director of UDF and a member of the COR from 2005-2010, confirmed “Although  the Iraqi Constitution, in Article (49 – IV) sets the quota for women in the CoR at not less than 25%, and although the number exceeded 84, yet the impact was very limited and did not meet people’s expectations. In addition to the above, most electoral lists heads stated that they will present high percentage of  new candidates, which requires more support to enhance and empower women capacities, to allow them to  participate effectively in the election. This is why we think such initiative is critical to strengthen women participation in Iraq”.

Dr. Nada Shaker, professor at Baghdad University and one of the woman MPs, stated “ I participated in the polls in order to serve the people in need via legislation of Codes that deal with investment and basic services, UNDP initiative was  very useful but it should be conducted months before the election so that women candidates can make full use of it”. She said  “Since I have the skills and tools, I am looking forward to create a parliamentary bloc that is able to make change”. She added “I hope that Women MPs can form a bloc that play a key role in the parliament”.

(Source: UNDP)

After five months of political uncertainty, Iraq finally has a new prime minister.

On October 3, Iraq’s newly named president, Barham Salih, picked Adel Abdul Mahdi, an independent Shia politician, to be the next prime minister and form a government. The appointment of Mahdi may have provided an opportunity to calm the protests that have roiled the southern Iraqi city of Basra since July.

Unrest in Basra escalated to levels high enough for the United States to shut its consulate in the city on September 28.

The unrest reflects a changing Iraq—one in which many citizens will no longer tolerate an unaccountable government.

The full article can be viewed here.

(Source: Atlantic Council)

 

By John Lee.

The new Iraqi Parliament (Council of Representatives) has selected Mohammed Halbusi [Mohamed al-Halbousi] (pictured) as Speaker.

Aged 37, Halbusi is the youngest person to serve as Speaker.

According to Anadolu Agency, he won 169 out of 298 votes, while his rival Khalid al-Obeidi, former defense minister, won 85 votes.

He is a member of the Al-Hall (Solution) party, and has most recently server as Governor of Anbar province.

(Sources: Iraqi Parliament, Anadolu Agency)

 

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Supreme Court (pictured) has ratified the results of the parliamentary election, which was held in May.

According to The National, this gives the winning political parties three months to form a new government.

Muqtada al-Sadr has retained his lead. A coalition government needs at least 165 from a total of 329.

(Sources: The National, Al Jazeera)

By John Lee.

Moqtada al-Sadr has reportedly retained his lead in Iraq’s parliamentary election following a full recount.

According to Xinhua, the results showed no change in 13 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, and changes in four provinces involving five seat-winners within their own coalitions.

The recount did not alter the initial results significantly, with Sadr keeping his total of 54 seats.

(Sources: Reuters, Xinhua)