Iraq’s top court on Monday overturned a decision by the prime minister to abolish the vice presidential posts as part of reform efforts, declaring it unconstitutional, the judiciary said.
The ruling is a blow to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and would potentially return his predecessor and rival Nuri al-Maliki to a vice presidential post, of which there were three when the premier sought to abolish them last year.
The court ruled that “the existence of one or more vice presidents of the republic is required by the constitution,” judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar said in a statement.
That wording leaves open the possibility that the number of vice presidents could be reduced without requiring an amendment to the constitution as long as at least one remained.
Explaining the ruling, Bayraqdar referred to Article 69 of the constitution, which the court ruled stipulates the existence of the post, and Article 75, which says that the vice president will fill in if the president is absent.
Given the requirements of those two articles, doing away with the vice presidency would necessitate a constitutional amendment following procedures outlined in Article 142, which was not done, Bayraqdar said.
Abadi proposed scrapping the vice presidency in August 2015 as part of a series of measures - which the cabinet approved - aimed at assuaging popular anger over corruption and poor governance that had led to weeks of demonstrations.
Parliament then voted two days later in support of the measures proposed by Abadi, but did not amend the constitution to eliminate the vice presidency.
The court case challenging the abolition of the vice presidential posts was filed by Osama al-Nujaifi, a former parliament speaker and one of three ex-vice presidents along with Maliki and Iyad Allawi.
The vice presidential positions came with large salaries and security details but few responsibilities.
Monday’s ruling did not address the issue of who would hold now hold the posts, which could either revert to the three previous occupants or be filled by a new candidate or candidates selected by parliamentary vote.
Iraq has been hit by repeated political upheaval - including parliament’s recent removal of the defence minister - during the course of its more than two-year war against the ISIS group.
Iraqi forces are now preparing for the battle to retake Mosul, the last city to be held by the militants in the country.SHOW MORE