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Iraq's Dysfunctional Parliament

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International observers view the Iraqi Parliament as “immature” or “dysfunctional.” The man on the street in Baghdad calls the elected body “irrelevant.”

The Iraqi Council of Representatives, which meets in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, is currently an elected body of 275 seats filled by elected Parliamentarians or Legislators representing the various regions and factions of Iraq.

After Saddam Hussein’s decades-long autocratic rule, this elected body is the first attempt at democracy in the long history of mankind in the Tigris-Euphrates region.

Consequently, there is a steep learning curve and no history or tradition of conduct, decorum or order in the Iraqi Parliament. The United States media outlet National Public Radio has a reporter named Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad. She reports that most observers view the elected body and its members as “immature.”

Just this week the Iraqi parliament voted to oust its outspoken speaker. The assembly said the behavior of Mahmoud Mashhadani, a leader of the main Sunni Arab bloc, has been an embarrassment. He frequently engaged in shouting matches with other members of the assembly but what sparked his ouster was an assault or near assault of another member of the elected body.

The vote against the Sunni physician Mashhadani came one day after an altercation between him and Firyad Mohammed Omar, a Shiite Turkoman. Omar said that Mashadani’s bodyguards had treated him roughly in a passageway confrontation and altercation.

Mashhadani said last year that Iraqis who killed American troops should be celebrated as heroes – a statement that nearly cost him his job then.

Mashhadani, who had been jailed by Saddam Hussein for his political activities, was supposed to be a unifying figure for Iraqis but his frequent shouting member with other officials caused grave concern among the nation’s leaders.

Mashhadani will likely remain a member of Parliament but legislators have not yet determined his ultimate role.

Parliament has come under increasing media pressure in Iraq, the United States and internationally. Sessions of the legislature are schedule always to start at 11 AM and although the media assembles at that time most lawmakers do not appear before 1 PM. Sessions of the lawmaking body are frequently cancelled due to a lack of a quorum.

Iraqi’s interviewed on the street by several news agencies reported that the average Iraqi views the lawmaking body as largely irrelevant. The agenda of laws to be decided is a complete blank with almost no new legislation of significance during the last year.

The Parliament is still considering a two month summer recess, which is viewed as a right written into and protected by the Iraqi Constitution.

John E. Carey

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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