Debate about Talabani's proposal to demarcate provincial borders

21/02/2012 09:19
BAGHDAD, Feb. 21 (AKnews) - The draft law to demarcate the administrative borders of 17 provinces, which was referred to the Council of Representatives by President Jalal Talabani, has prompted significant legal debate.

The vice chairman of the Kurdish Blocs Coalition Mohsen al-Saadoun said the Council of Representatives received the draft law and it was referred to the Legal Committee to be discussed in the coming days.

"Correcting the administrative borders is [required] because the Electoral Commission can't hold elections [in] districts and areas due to the presence of overlaps between the provinces," said Saadoun, a member of the Legal Committee.

"Re-demarcating the boundaries is constitutional and the draft law will be well examined in the Council of Representatives."

Political calls increased recently to demarcate the administrative borders between Iraq's provinces, especially between Karbala, Anbar, Nineveh, Salahaddin, Muthana, Dhiqar, Diyala, and Baghdad. Talabani's proposal seeks to cancel the former regime's decrees on the administrative boundaries of cities and towns and return them to their pre-1968 state. The outlawed Baath Party took power in Iraq in 1968.

Talabani's proposal was formulated with the help of a number of legal experts in the light of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, and there is Kurdish optimism about passing it in the Council of Representatives. Kurds consider it key for the return of areas to their original state, while others believe it to be a violation of the Iraqi Constitution and a move that does not fall within Talabani's powers.

"The constitution didn't authorize President Jalal Talabani to submit a draft law about re-demarcating the administrative boundaries of some provinces and he doesn't have the powers to do that," said Omar al-Jabbouri, a member of the Legal Committee and the representative of the Arab component for Kirkuk in the Council of Representatives.

"We had a Presidency Council on the basis of the provisions of Article 138 (First) from the constitution and during this period Article 140 [of the constitution] was valid until December 31, 2007. Until [that date] the Presidency Council didn't follow any of the procedures in Article 58, paragraph B of the Transitional Administrative Law.

"The constitution confirms that after the first [successive term] the role of the Presidency Council ends and the president exercises his powers according to Article 73 [of the constitution]. According to Article 73 the president doesn't have the powers to make recommendations about the demarcation of the administrative borders between provinces and districts and areas."

Legal expert Tariq Harb meanwhile quoted Article 60 (First) of the constitution to refute Jabbouri's opinion and confirmed that the constitution gives power to the president to propose draft laws.

"Article 60 (First) of the Iraqi Constitution is clear and explicit and points out that the president and Council of Ministers have the powers to propose draft laws," adding that the constitutional article does not specify which laws can and cannot be proposed.

"Proposing laws doesn't mean that they will be passed in the Council of Representatives since the latter has the right to reject or pass," continued Harb. "The Council of Representatives receives bills from civil society organizations, so how do these organizations have the right to propose draft laws and the president doesn't have this power?"

According to press reports the Iraqi Council of Ministers promised to supply Talabani with all of the documents concerning the disputed areas, while the president himself is working to collect the documents of the former regime with respect to the issue.

The Ministry of State for Provincial Affairs stated that the bill of installing administrative borders between the provinces was adopted before the US invasion and was then disabled and replaced by the Law of Governorates Not Incorporated Into a Region no. 21, 2008.

If the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the government resolve the issue of demarcating the borders the most prominent challenge will be the mechanism for the application of Article 140 of the constitution.

According to Article 140 the issue of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil must be resolved after a demographic alteration was implemented by the former Iraqi regime in a number of provinces, most notably Nineveh, Salahaddin, Kirkuk and Diyala. The "Arabization" of these areas saw local ethnic groups replaced by Arabs. The issue can be resolved on three stages: firstly normalization, then a population census, followed by a public referendum about the fate of these areas. A census would determine whether or not these areas belong to Kurdistan region or to the federal government in Baghdad.

By Haider Ibrahim