43 Dead in Wednesday Bombings
Constitution Wrangling continues
Guerrillas detonated three car bombs in central Baghdad Wednesday morning, killing at least 43 and wounding 73. In a separate incident, an American soldier was killed on Tuesday evening.
Al-Hayat says that Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs are pointing the finger of blame at one another over the failure to ratify a new constitution on Monday. There was a widespread feeling, however, that it is urgent to meet the new deadline of August 22, in order to avoid a “vacuum” and “a descent into the unknown.” (It is widely thought that the vacuum created by the long weeks it took to form a government last spring encouraged the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement).
Jawad al-Maliki, a parliamentarian from the Dawa Party (Shiite fundamentalist) said that the one-week extension was not arbitrary, but was a genuine estimation of how much more time was needed to settle outstanding issues.
Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari revealed to al-Hayat that his ministry repeatedly contacted Iran to encourage Tehran to deal directly with the Iraqi central government rather than making separate agreements with Iraqi provinces.
I wish he had been more specific. What does it mean that the Iranian foreign ministry has contacts and promotes deals with individual Iraqi provinces? Presumably the relationship is with those provinces dominated by Shiites and by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (which used to be in exile in Tehran).
A member of parliament told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the relgious Shiites were most concerned with “religion and state, the law of personal status, the constitutional council (?), and the distribution of natural resources and the portion to be received by the provinces [from petroleum receipts].”
Some readers and bloggers have complained about my allegation that the postponement of the deadline for the submission of the final draft of the permanent constitution was “unconstitutional.” They point out that the interim constitution allows its own amendment by a supermajority of parliament.
It is true that the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) or interim constitution can be amended in this way. However, the language I quoted on Monday also makes it clear that any such amendment would have had to be introduced before August 1. The text is very clear about the need to dissolve parliament if no postponement is sought before August 1, but the new constitution is not adopted by August 15. But the point is not important procedurally. After all, there is no supreme court, and the elected parliament is sovereign, so the legislature may do as it pleases. My larger point has been missed, which is that by taking this action the parliament has asserted its sovereignty clearly for the first time over the TAL, which was in some important part an American creation (many Iraqis worked on it, as well).
A reader writes with a further insight:
‘ It seems that the National Assembly ignored Article 32(C) of the TAL:
(C) A bill shall not be voted upon by the National Assembly unless it has been read twice at a regular session of the Assembly, on condition that at least two days intervene between the two readings, and after the bill has been placed on the agenda of the session at least four days prior to the vote.
How could an extension be approved in one day?
Clearly this was not legal process, somehow a “resolution” was passed which nowhere is defined or allowed to be passed in this manner (perhaps you can find authority for it, I cannot). Clearly Article 32(C) was designed to cover any/all amendments or laws, and it was ignored here. ‘
I agree with the reader that the interim constitution does require that bills be passed in such a way that they can’t be railroaded through, and it is hard to imagine that it was envisaged that constitutional amendments (which are more important than mere statutes) would be passed in a flurry of activity late on the day they were introduced!