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Senior Iraqi legislators turn against the parliament

Adnan Hussein

Published: Updated:

In an unprecedented move, senior, and not junior, Iraqi parliamentarians have objected, appealed and protested against the results of Iraqi parliamentary elections. These senior figures are the highly influential members of the Iraqi Parliament and of the entire political process.

They come from a cross-section of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political parties and groups chosen by the United States and Britain before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 to rule Iraq on the grounds that they represent the basic constituents of the society, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

As for junior parliamentarians, they come from political parties and groups that came into existence after the fall of Saddam's regime but stayed outside political dynamics. Their role was defined as being a complementary adjunct to the political process that was described as democratic, but was not so in reality.

What happened in the Iraqi Parliament is an attempted coup plotted by the seniors who have been toppled by the recent elections. It is a coup that has not completed yet

Adnan Hussein

Vestiges of a flawed system

Since the first elections of the post-Saddam era in early 2006, electoral laws, the law of the High Electoral Commission and provisions of the constitution have been violated. There has also been an increase in cases of fraud. In fact some of the officials of the Commission have testified in this regard. The seniors have been behind most of this as they were the only ones who had the power to influence and garner money. They divided state positions among themselves under the system of sectarian and national quotas, which sustained the biggest administrative and financial corruption system in the region and one of the largest in the entire world.

International organizations such as Transparency International were not the only ones who conceded this fact. In fact, senior political figures have repeatedly acknowledged the existence of corruption in state and society. The heads of Iraqi governments appointed by the senior parliamentarians have emphasized that they will work hard to fight corruption in their governments and make it a priority but this never happened.

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From a constitutional point of view, the Commission was described as “independent” along with ten other bodies but this wasn’t really the case since the seniors held very firm to dividing posts in these commissions and their supreme councils in the same way state positions and functions have been divided. Specific parties controlled these commissions from the very beginning, and dividing posts and jobs mainly happened through the Parliament which is dominated by these seniors; as such commissions were under its supervision and control, and had no independence at all.

Opposition to reforms

The juniors of the political process, those who succeeded in having their representatives in the Parliament or failed, have maintained the need to respect the impartiality of these "independent" bodies, especially the Electoral Commission, as it is the most important body that guarantees that the electoral process is not manipulated.

This demand has been at the center of the protest movements witnessed by Iraq since February 2011. But the seniors were not interested in this so they have always opposed amending the electoral and the commission laws to guarantee fair and transparent elections run by an independent commission. As a matter of fact, an MP representing of one of these senior parties (an influential Shiite party) told the media once that the quota system “was built to stay and had become a reality.”

Before the elections last month, demands to form an independent commission and amend the electoral law were made again. However, the seniors turned down these demands and they formed the current Commission themselves and under the same quota system. They even refused to grant the judiciary partial representation in the Commission to supervise the elections. They also refused to postpone elections for some time especially since the country has just emerged out of its devastating war against ISIS. Many cities and towns were destroyed and people have been displaced. Hundreds of thousands are in camps and many of them thus had no chance to finish the paperwork required to vote.

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The election brought shocking results for the senior politicians, even though such an outcome was expected outside their close circles. Following the results, they made a volte face of 180 degrees and have started working on annulling election results and overthrowing the commission. Earlier in June, 170 MPs, who mostly lost in the recent elections, quickly met to change the election law and annul the announced results of the electronic system - the same electronic system that these members were once enthusiastic about! They decided on manual recount of the votes along with annulment of the results of overseas voting in camps and the exceptional voting in Kurdistan region.

Disillusioned electorate

This is happening while the Parliament is in recess and is about to finish its term because powerful forces have suffered a decline in their representation in the new Parliament. Some of the big figures failed to secure a seat in Parliament, and this is mainly because Iraqi voters have lost confidence in them.

This was expected as these forces were not able to keep their position when they are responsible for the real disaster that Iraq witnessed four years ago, which is the ISIS occupation of a third of Iraq's territory. Almost all Iraqi families were tragically affected by this event either during the invasion or in the nearly three-year war to vanquish this terrorist organization and expel its elements from Iraq. These powers couldn’t have enjoyed the respect of Iraqis while administrative and financial corruption are at its peak along with poverty, unemployment and the fall of public service system, which led to a new wave of protests in recent days in many provinces.

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What happened in the Iraqi Parliament is an attempted coup plotted by the seniors who have been toppled by the recent elections. It is a coup that has not completed yet. There are also those who refused, objected and filed complaints at the electoral legal body and the Federal Court, objecting to the legality and constitutionality of what the Parliament did.

Whatever the fate of the objections and appeals, the final result will only make Iraqis less confident in the political process. The recent elections reflect this collapse, with the poor voter turnout at a mere 55 per cent, and the toppling of many known figures from the elections.

BLURB: Senior politicians have always opposed amending the electoral and the Commission laws to guarantee fair and transparent elections run by an independent commission.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.