WEEK 53: As the deployment nears its end, I reflect on how wrong I was about Prime Minister Maliki’s resilience. On a side note, I recall thinking during the Surge how at least my U.S. government wasn’t as corrupt as the Iraqi government.
“I’m still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah” Elton John
As I look back over the past year, I am impressed with Prime Minister Maliki’s staying power. I thought the government might collapse last winter. This was never really close to happening. Around March when calls for no confidence really started to surface, I predicted the Prime Minister would make it until September. I got that one right but in late August and early September I was again foretelling his demise.
He made it through September and is still going strong. If I had written this article last month, I would have named him Mr. October, but it is now November. Prime Minister Maliki isn’t going anywhere any time soon. I am glad I waited until November, because we’ve seen how the Prime Minister can do anything. He is a regular Superman.
Last month the Prime Minister nominated two new ministers to fill the Agricultural and Health ministerial positions vacated by Sadrists. The Council of Representatives present for roll call ratified the nominations. After a long wait, we finally had the government moving forward. It is not important that the Council of Representatives didn’t have the one hundred thirty eight votes required by the Constitution as long as the Prime Minister gets what he wants.
The Deputy Speaker, who presided over the session, had a letter from the Supreme Federal Court stating the Constitutional law doesn’t apply to ratifying the Prime Ministers ministerial nominations. Even though the vote was not on the agenda, which is also required by the Constitution, the Supreme Federal Court still had no issues.
Constitution? Laws? Surely, the constitutional laws don’t apply to the Prime Minister during a time of national crisis. For good measure, the two quasi approved ministers showed up for duty at the next council meeting. When Mahmoud Mashhadani was back at the Speaker’s podium, he suggested to the Prime Minister the Council hold a no confidence vote with the representatives present for roll call. If the Prime Minister doesn’t need one hundred thirty eight votes to ratify Ministers, the Council doesn’t need it to boot the Prime Minister.
Undeterred, the Prime Minster responds by suspending the Tawafuq Ministers who previously resigned. He had not accepted their original resignations back in September. After thirty days, the ministers are officially resigned according to the Constitution. Constitution? Laws? Surely, the constitutional laws don’t apply to the Prime Minister during a time of national crisis.
The Prime Minister increased the pressure by also suspending the resigned ministers’ pensions and protection services. The Prime Minister’s foray left the Tawafuq Front in disarray as some remarked they should have been consulted. Why does the Prime Minister need to consult Ministers who resigned? The Prime Minister doesn’t have the authority to withhold benefits. This should have been approved by the Council of Representatives.
Superman wasn’t done. Recently, he recommended tribal leaders to fill ministerial positions vacated by the Tawafuq Front. This is a nice smack to the Tawafuq inability to lead its Sunni constituents. The Anbar Tribal Leaders jumped on it. This move may also bring the country closer to reconciliation by Mr. Maliki acknowledging he can work with tribal leaders. The tribal leaders are learned reasonable men.
Remember, though, this is Iraq. Reasonable men keep their friends close and their enemies closer. If the Prime Minister is paying attention he should note the Sunnis are currently better organized at the grass roots or tribal level. This organization is also spilling into the Shia tribes and collectively threatens Mr. Maliki’s power base.
If he wants to stay in power, the Prime Minister may need to cut deals with those who will bring progress to the country. Simultaneously, he needs to not over-empower them such that they rise to power too quickly. Politics can be like making sausage – a real mess. What better way to keep someone’s power in check by showing the mess on their hands from making the sausage? Prime Ministers and Presidents use their positions to stay above the fray.
The Prime Minister and the government will likely not collapse before the national elections of 2009. By then, however, those in charge need to have made some true progress or they are history. We’ll likely have to over see a peaceful transition of power amongst a coalition government. Until then, we have to help maintain the peace while the political super powers continue to dance and spar around the ring.