National Council Process Derailed
Basra Delegates Withdrawn
The national convention of some 1200 delegates to choose an interim national council was beset with several setbacks. It initially had to be postponed two weeks out of concerns that the country’s political chaos were unpropitious to success. Some in the UN thought it should be postponed even further. When it met, it was beset with wrangling about how the delegates were chosen, and how to elect the 100-member National Council, not to mention mortar fire that fell nearby. It was also roiled by the crisis in Najaf, in which it attempted to intervene by acting as mediator. It is unclear whether the peace plan some of its delegates came up with will work or not.
On Wednesday, the 43 delegates from Basra angrily withdrew, complaining that they were slighted numerically. Basra has 1.3 million inhabitants, largely Shiite. That’s about 5% of the population. So they should have had 60 delegates to a 1200-member body.
The slate of 81 candidates was preselected, which caused complaints and another list was put in competition. But then it was suddenly withdraw, leaving only the original pre-planned list. It was accepted by acclamation–there wasn’t even a vote.
The whole performance was very little democratic, despite the media hype. The resulting National Council has authority over the budget and over appointment of cabinet and other high officials of the cartaker government. It cannot pass laws, being constrained by the ones passed by the Americans during the year they ran the country directly.
The caretaker Allawi government will likely ignore the National Council and do as it pleases.