Iraq’s New Parliament Sworn In

It took three months of negotiations but Iraq’s new parliament has been sworn in. It’s still not functional, however.

Three months after elections, Iraq’s new parliament was sworn in Thursday with parties still deadlocked over the next government, vehicles banned from Baghdad’s streets to prevent car bombings and the country under the shadow of a feared civil war. But the long-awaited first session was indefinitely adjourned after just over 30 minutes because the parliament still has no speaker — just one result of the political impasse.

Adnan Pachachi, the senior politician who administered the oath in the absence of a speaker, spoke of a country in crisis. “We have to prove to the world that a civil war is not and will not take place among our people,” Pachachi told lawmakers. “The danger is still looming and the enemies are ready for us because they do not like to see a united, strong, stable Iraq.” As Pachachi spoke, he was interrupted from the floor by senior Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who said the remarks were inappropriate because of their political nature.

Even the oath was a source of disagreement, with the head of the committee that drafted the country’s new constitution, Humam Hammoudi, protesting that lawmakers had strayed from the text when they pledged to “preserve the independence and the sovereignty of Iraq and to take care of the interests of its people.” After brief consultations, judicial officials agreed the wording was acceptable and the session adjourned until further notice. Afterward acting Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told reporters that “if politicians work seriously, we can have a government within a month.”

Al-Jaafari’s candidacy for a second term as prime minister is at the center of the political logjam that delayed parliament’s first session for over a month after the results of Dec. 15 elections were approved. Under the constitution, the largest parliamentary bloc, controlled by Shiites, has the right to nominate the prime minister. Al-Jaafari won the Shiite nomination by a single vote last month. Politicians involved in the negotiations have said part of the Shiite bloc, those aligned with al-Hakim, would like to see al-Jaafari ousted but fear the consequences, given his backing from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and al-Sadr’s powerful Mahdi Army. Sunni, Kurdish and some secular Shiites argue al-Jaafari is too divisive and accuse him of not doing enough to contain waves of revenge killing after bombers destroyed an important Shiite shrine on Feb. 22 and ripped apart teeming markets in an al-Sadr stronghold in Baghdad on Sunday.

This resembles a Monty Python skit more than a mature political system. Then again, this is an incredibly difficult balancing act being attempted by people with no experience with representative government.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. adsfk says:

    This resembles a Monty Python skit more than a mature political system.

    Well, I am sure they will be in good shape to take over security after the US cuts and runs in the next 9 months.

  2. Baler says:

    This is a healthy debate and I welcome it. Every disagreement, however small, which is overcome through debate, lays down the foundation for nonviolent conflict resolution.
    A political scientist would tell you that no matter what society you look at, 90% of the people do not care about politics. What is puzzling is that throughout the history of mankind, those who have strong political opinions succeed in compelling other people to kill each other in their stead. Yet most people do not care about the exact wording of the swearing-in ceremony or the shape of the table — we simply want the politicians to settle it, while the rest of us sell our vegetables in our roadside stands, and then go home to a warm dinner and to play ball with the children.
    And so it is worded in the U.S. Constitution — a document written up more than 200 years ago by men who won a revolutionary war against British Colonialism. The fundamental idea is to set up a form of government to provide for the peaceful expression of political ideas without the necessity for killing one another. And to provide a system where the politicians are chosen by the people of the country. It was brilliant 200 years ago and is still brilliant today.
    I do not want my sons or daughters dying in some other country. I want that country to realize it is much more fun to debate the issues openly, and to convince other people to vote for you, than it is to kill yourselves with suicide bombs. Life is worth living. Politics stink. Running a government is no fun. Those who want to run it, you have to convince the people of your country to let you do the job. This is the basic idea of the U.S. Constitution — to establish a peaceful process for those who care about politics to settle it and get on with life without people killing each other. Life is too short, and the politicians are interrupting my TV program far too often.
    We in the U.S. want every strongly opinionated person in Iraq of every political persuasion to stop building bombs and instead run for political office. If you are a radical, don’t blow yourself up; instead run for political office, and debate the wording of the swearing-in ceremony and anything else you want to argue about. I, in the meantime, want to sell as many vegetables as I can, and go home. I do not want bullets piercing my skull because you cannot debate nonviolently. Everybody on the streets of Iraq feels the same way. The people of the world want to sell their vegetables in peace. There is no reason for anyone to kill anyone else in Iraq anymore.
    One last thing — people universally hate their leaders eventually. The brilliance of the U.S. Constitution is that it provides a peaceful process for people to get rid of their leaders without having to kill anyone. We in the USA are sick of George W. Bush. We want to change the channel. Come 2008, we can and will do so and no one will die. We will say good-bye to George W. Bush, and we will vote some other monkey in. Then we will get sick of the new monkey, and vote him out. It is the most fun thing about government — we hate them and we can vote them out. No one dies, and not even a single vegetable gets bruised. Brilliant.
    I hope someone reads this and wises up. Pass it on. The U.S. Constitution was written by brilliant insurgents who hated war. Iraq, please control your politicians with a similar constitution, and stop killing each other, so our sons and daughters can come home. We have vegetables in the fields waiting.

  3. McGehee says:

    Well, I am sure they will be in good shape to take over security after the US cuts and runs in the next 9 months.

    Is that anything like the 14-month “rush to war”?

  4. Good observation. It is unfortunate that the mainstream media fails to grasp the obvious fact that forming a unity government is indeed a very difficult task.