Tuesday, November 14, 2023

3 Iraqi Ministers Resign Due to House Speaker’s Ouster


Iraqi Government Ministers Resign in Protest of Ousted Parliament Speaker’s Termination

In a surprising turn of events, three government ministers supported by ousted Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed Halbousi have announced their resignation. This move comes in protest of a ruling by Iraq’s top court to terminate Halbousi’s tenure. Halbousi’s Taqaddom party has condemned the court decision as “blatantly unconstitutional” and “clear political targeting.” The party has also declared its boycott of meetings of the ruling State Administration Coalition, while its lawmakers will boycott parliament sessions.

The Federal Supreme Court’s decision has not only upended the career of Iraq’s most powerful Sunni Muslim politician but has also set the stage for a fight over succession. The resignations of the planning, industry, and culture ministers have further destabilized the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, who came to power one year ago with the support of a coalition led by Shiite Muslim parties but also including Sunni Muslim Arabs and Kurds.

The court decision, which is final and not subject to appeal, is said to be related to a Federal Supreme Court case brought against Halbousi earlier this year. While state media did not provide further details, local media, lawmakers, and analysts believe the decision is linked to alleged forgery on Halbousi’s part. However, Halbousi’s office has not been available for comment.

Halbousi, re-elected in 2021, was serving his second term as speaker. As per the sectarian power-sharing system established after the 2003 US invasion, the speaker’s position is reserved for a Sunni Muslim. The prime minister is a member of the Shiite Muslim majority, while the largely ceremonial role of president is held by a Kurd. This sectarian formula has often faced challenges due to competing agendas and has failed to prevent bloodshed or provide basic services to the people.

Mohammed Halbousi, a 42-year-old engineer from western Iraq, rose to power rapidly by cultivating good relations and making deals with powerful Shiite and Kurdish factions. However, he lost support within Iraq’s ruling Shiite alliance, the Coordination Framework (CF), after attempting to form a government with their opponents following the 2021 parliamentary polls. Although he eventually joined the CF in government, the damage was done, and he was perceived as untrustworthy and accumulating too much power by rallying Sunnis into a unified front.

Renad Mansour, director of the Iraq Initiative at London’s Chatham House think tank, explains that Halbousi’s rapid rise and accumulation of enemies led to his downfall. Mansour suggests that weakened opponents put the ruling Shiite parties in a better position, benefiting from the division and internal disputes among Sunnis or Kurds.

Critics have raised concerns about Iraq’s judicial system being subject to political influence. However, top judges maintain that it is an independent branch of government. Lawmakers were gathered for a regular parliamentary session when the decision was issued, and Halbousi subsequently left the chamber. Deputy speaker Mohsen Al-Mandalawi, a Shiite, will serve as interim speaker until a new speaker is elected.

Halbousi’s ouster comes just over a month before Iraq holds elections for provincial councils, marking an important milestone for one of the world’s youngest democracies. These elections will be the first since they last took place a decade ago.

The resignation of the government ministers and the termination of Halbousi’s tenure have created significant political turmoil in Iraq. The country now faces the challenge of maintaining stability and ensuring a smooth transition of power. The impact of these events on the upcoming elections remains to be seen, as Iraq continues to navigate its complex sectarian power-sharing system.

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