Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bad News From Iraq

The Provincial Elections law, one of three major pieces of legislation passed by the Iraqi Parliament this month, was vetoed by the Presidency Council and has been sent back to Parliament for reconsideration and revision.




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The provincial elections bill, which would create moderately strong provinces, is at the center of a debate in Iraq over whether there should be a strong or weak central government. History would suggest that this is not an easy issue to resolve. In American history, we had the Articles of Confederation, creating a weak central government, that was finally replaced with our Constitution in 1788. And then we fought a civil war over much the same issue. Now its Iraq's turn, and the issue seems equally divisive. This from the NYT:

Political momentum in Iraq hit a sudden roadblock on Wednesday when a feud between the largest Shiite factions led to the veto of a law that had been passed with great fanfare two weeks ago. The law had been heralded by the Bush administration as a breakthrough for national reconciliation.

The law called for provincial elections by October, and it was hoped that it would eliminate severe electoral distortions that have left Kurds and Shiites with vastly disproportionate power over Sunni Arabs in some areas, a factor in fueling the Sunni insurgency. It would also have given Iraqis who have long complained of corrupt and feckless local leaders a chance to clean house and elect officials they believe are more accountable.

But the law was vetoed at the last minute by the three-member Iraqi presidency council, which includes President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents. The veto came after officials in a powerful Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, objected to provisions that they contend unlawfully strip power from Iraq’s provinces.

Politicians involved in the debate said the main objections came from Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, a Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council member. The bill now goes back to Parliament, where its prospects are unclear, given the acrimonious debate over the issue that led to the veto.

. . . The veto is “somewhat of a setback,” Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, acknowledged Wednesday during a hearing in Congress.

A common refrain among American combat commanders is that new local elections could help sweep out ineffective leaders while remedying deeply uneven provincial councils, a legacy partly of the Sunni Arab boycott of previous provincial elections.

. . . The Sadrists, who were furious at the veto, want to retain a strong central government that has the legal muscle to deal vigorously any province that Baghdad leaders believe is acting against the country’s best interests. They said the veto breached the historic agreement among political blocs two weeks ago that allowed the simultaneous passage of the provincial powers bill, the 2008 budget and another law granting amnesty to thousands of Sunnis and others in Iraqi jails.

“It’s a struggle of two wills,” said Nassar al-Rubaie, a legislator from the Sadr movement. “One side wants to strengthen the central government and federal authority, and the other wants to undermine it and grant the provinces greater powers.”

Read the entire article.


1 comment:

suek said...

". . . The Sadrists, who were furious at the veto, want to retain a strong central government that has the legal muscle to deal vigorously any province that Baghdad leaders believe is acting against the country’s best interests."

The more centralized the seat of power, the easier to seize that power. Iraqis would be well advised to opt for a weaker central government until their political system is well tested and they are secure in the knowledge that their leaders can be trusted or effectively removed. A weaker central government means a less efficient government, but a dictatorship is the most effective form of government - and they've tried that one!