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23 May 2024

Frustrated MPs want Iraq parliament dissolved

By Agencies

A growing number of frustrated MPs are demanding that the Iraqi parliament be dissolved, politicians said on Wednesday as bitter divisions continued to stall key laws and the annual budget.


Leaders of the main political blocs are meeting in an urgent bid to resolve the crisis, which has been caused by deep distrust between MPs, Jaber Habib, an independent Shia lawmaker said on Wednesday.


"There is a big crisis of confidence among the parliamentary blocs," Habib told AFP. "The leaders of the blocs are meeting among themselves in the backrooms in a bid to break the deadlock."


Reflecting the despair, parliament speaker Mahmud Mashhadani warned after Tuesday's session ended in disarray and without a vote on the long-delayed budget, that there was support for a dissolution of the legislature.


"I have a memorandum signed by some political blocs demanding that parliament be dissolved if MPs fail to vote on the budget," he said.


Sadrist MP Baha Al Aaraji was among those who called on Tuesday for a dissolution, but the head of the Sadr bloc in parliament, Nassar Al Rubaie, said Aaraji had been "expressing his personal views".


"The unofficial talk among MPs is that the best solution to the crisis is to dissolve parliament," Rubaie added, however.


Should parliament be dissolved, new elections would have to be held within 60 days.


The move would further undermine Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki's beleaguered government, which has been hit by walkouts that have left him with almost half of the posts in his cabinet vacant.


Washington sees the passing of a series of flagship laws as a "benchmark" to measure political reconciliation between the country's deeply divided communities.


US officials repeatedly express concern that Iraqi politicians are not making use of the space provided by vastly improved security partly effected by a "surge" of US troops since June.


Shia lawmakers walked out of Tuesday's rare night session when Kurdish MPs refused to drop their demand to lump the budget vote with two other controversial draft laws - an amnesty bill and one setting a date for provincial elections.


Kurds say they fear that if they support the second two bills, other blocs will not reciprocate by backing the budget, which includes a controversial allocation of 17 per cent of the spending to the autonomous northern Kurdish region.


According to Habib, the crisis goes further than that because each bloc is supporting a different law - Sunni Arabs the amnesty bill, Shia MPs the provincial election law and Kurds the budget.


"Each bloc is concerned that if they vote for one bill, the others will not back them in voting for their one," he said.


Arguments revolve around which of the three measures should be put to the vote first.

He believed however that a deal would be struck by the leaders of the blocs and that it would not come down to the dissolution of the legislature, which would require support from two-thirds of Iraq's 275 MPs.(AFP)