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.