Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks during a meeting of the Council of Ministers in Erbil, about 350 km (220 miles) north of Baghdad, June 9, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)
On Jan. 26, 2013, the Iraqi parliament approved a law limiting to two terms the mandates of Iraqi presidents, prime ministers and parliament speakers. Since then, Iraq has witnessed an ongoing debate about the law, which passed with the votes of 170 deputies, mostly from the Iraqiyya bloc, Sadrists, the Kurdistan Alliance, and the Supreme Islamic Council. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc and its allies boycotted the session.
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Summary :The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court has yet to rule on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's challenge of a term-limit law, which leads some to believe the court is awaiting the results of the 2014 elections.
The Term Limit Law for the 'Iraqi Presidencies' Has Been Under Review by the Federal Court for Five Months
Author: Mushreq Abbas
Translated by: Rani Geha
Categories : Originals Iraq
The term-limit law is controversial because Article 72 of the Iraqi Constitution, which adopted the parliamentarian system, limits the presidential mandate to two terms but says nothing about how many terms the prime minister or the parliament speaker can have.
As soon as the law was proposed, the State of Law coalition objected and appealed the law to the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, questioning the legality of the parliament session that approved the law and by challenging the constitutionality of the law itself.
On March 12, the court found that the parliamentary session during which the law was passed was “legal” in form. That decision signaled the possibility that the court may reject the appeal on the constitutionality of the term-limit law itself. But the court has not yet ruled on the matter.
It is not clear how the court will decide and many are wondering why the court has yet to issue a decision.
In principle, the law “limiting the mandates of the three Iraqi presidencies” runs against several constitutional considerations in a parliamentary form of government, which usually lets tradition, not the constitution, determine the number of terms a prime minister can have. This is the case in most countries with a parliamentary system.
Parliamentary countries like Turkey and Germany have allowed a prime minister to govern for more than two terms without running afoul of any constitutional clauses or violating prevailing political norms.
Politically, the Iraqi law was a response to the attempt by Maliki and his State of Law parliamentary bloc to hold the prime-ministership for a third term after the 2014 elections.
The justifications cited were that the young Iraqi experience, the instability of state institutions, the sectarian and ethnic conflict, and the history of dictatorship in the country make a third term for any political official a threat to the smooth transfer of power in the political process.
Also, according to his political opponents, the prime minister gave no concrete evidence in his two terms in office that he isn’t seeking returning the country to authoritarian rule. Rather, he has shown a tendency to concentrate political, security and economic power in his hands, something that scared friend and foe alike.
Further, the deteriorating security conditions, and the local and regional sectarian tensions, are helping politicians mobilize the Iraqi street in their favor.
That last point has probably convinced the Iraqi political scene that relying on tradition to prevent the prime minister from governing for a third term is not enough and that a law clearly preventing that is needed so that a political leader cannot use exceptional circumstances to secure a long reign for himself.
There are two scenarios regarding the term-limit law:
The Federal Supreme Court may have delayed issuing a decision because it is in a dilemma. But the court cannot keep delaying a decision indefinitely. The supporters of the term-limit law fear that the highest court might delay a decision till after the 2014 elections, when the current parliament would be effectively dissolved and thus unable to react to an unfavorable court ruling.
- The court may choose to read the constitution strictly and reject the appeal. If the court takes that route, prime ministers and parliament speakers would have the right to unlimited terms.
- On the other hand, the court may choose not to ignore the decision of Iraqi MPs, who represent the people’s will. Moreover, parliament may choose to change the federal court itself or isolate its head, Midhat al-Mahmoud, whom the parliament’s accountability and justice commission once included in de-Baathification procedures.
The court may also be waiting to see the results of the 2014 elections. If the election results do not allow Maliki to secure a third term, the court may approve the term-limit law.
But the elections are still eight months away, which is plenty of time for the court to issue a decision.
The Federal Supreme Court should not be part of the political conflict in the country and should not tie the timing of its decisions to political considerations. Iraq has too many problems and the federal court should simply issue a fair ruling.
Mushreq Abbas is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. He has been managing editor of Al-Hayat’s Iraq bureau since 2005, and written studies and articles on Iraqi crises for domestic and international publication.
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