Baghdad, Iraq – The decision of the Federal Supreme Court to remove the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Muhammad al-Halbousi, from his position reshuffles the political cards in a volatile scene that is struggling to achieve stability, while forces prepare to run in provincial council elections, which are crucial elections that determine and strengthen the positions of influence of party elites.
Iraq is entering a period of confusion, political wrangling, and controversy over the constitutionality of the irreversible rule, as well as the inevitability of electing a new president for the Council and the failure of Al-Halbousi’s deputy, a Shiite, to retain the position due to sectarian sensitivities and his violation of the quota system adopted in the divisions of government.
Al-Halbousi, who has been removed from his position, announced on Wednesday his rejection of the Federal Supreme Court’s decision to terminate his parliamentary membership, arguing that it is not within the court’s jurisdiction to consider the MP’s membership, in tandem with the movements of political forces to discuss the ramifications of the decision on the scene in general and the upcoming local council elections in particular.
Based on a “forgery” case brought by Representative Laith Al-Dulaimi, the Federal Supreme Court, Iraq’s highest legal body, ruled to cancel Al-Halbousi’s membership. The non-appealable ruling effectively ended the career of one of Iraq’s most influential Sunni politicians, and it may pave the way for a power battle over who will replace.
During a news conference, Al-Halbousi stated, “The Federal Court’s duty is to abide by the Constitution and implement its provisions in a way that is not subject to jurisprudence.” He went on to say, “The Federal Court, with its decision – to terminate Al-Halbousi’s membership – violated the constitution, and this is a dangerous matter, as the court has no right to consider the validity of a representative’s membership except after a decision by the House of Representatives.”
The ouster of Al-Halbousi comes just over a month before provincial council elections, which were last conducted 10 years ago, and knowledgeable sources predict it will shift the political power balance.
Observers believe that the resignations of the Ministers of Planning, Industry, and Culture, announced in response to the termination of Al-Halbousi’s membership, will destabilize Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani’s government, which took power a year ago with the support of a coalition led by Shiite parties but also including Sunni Muslim Arabs and Kurds.
Al-Halbousi had positive relationships with Shiites and Kurds, which aided him in becoming Speaker of Parliament. However, he recently lost support inside the Iraqi Coordination Framework after attempting to establish a government with coalition opponents following the 2021 parliamentary elections. He later became a member of the Coordination Framework, although its members see him as untrustworthy.
Firas Elias, an Iraqi political affairs scholar, called the move “part of the strategy of exclusion,” writing in a blog post on the “X” platform that “the culture of exclusion is part of the identity of Iraq’s political system:
Al-Halbousi was in his second term as Speaker of Parliament, a post he initially held in 2018. He went on to say, “The constitution specifies the cases that require termination of membership in Parliament, which are resignation, death, felony, or illness,” and added, “We are keen to clarify the legal aspect of what happened.” And not on the political front.”
According to a statement on the court’s official website, it “decided to terminate the membership of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Muhammad Rekan Al-Halbousi, as of the date of issuance of the ruling on November 14, 2023.” According to the statement, the court also made a similar verdict against MP Laith Mustafa Hamoud Al-Dulaimi, who brought the complaint.
Experts claim that, just as Al-Halbousi pointed out that there were irregularities in the decision to terminate his membership, there were legal breaches in the Council’s leadership following the court’s judgment.
“The current effective internal regulations of the House of Representatives No. 1 of 2022 stipulate in the provisions of Article 12 thereof that the president,” legal affairs expert Salem Hawass noted.
Shiite Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohsen Al-Mandalawi will temporarily occupy the President of Parliament until a new president is chosen. According to the Iraqi sectarian political system formed following the American invasion in 2003, this is the highest rank a Sunni Muslim may occupy.
The expert in legal affairs continued, “The text of the provisions of Article 55 of the Constitution stipulates that the House of Representatives shall elect, in its first session, a president, by an absolute majority of the number of members of the House, by direct secret election, and this Parliament is obligated to elect a new president in a session held for it after the decision of the Federal Court.” “.
The Prime Minister is a Shiite, the Speaker of Parliament is a Sunni, and the President of the nation is a Kurd, according to the governance structure in place since the passage of the constitution in 2005 in the post-Saddam Hussein era.
However, because to conflicting goals and the pooling of massive oil money among powerful factions, the sectarian and sensitive character of administration is frequently under severe strain, while it has failed to stop the carnage or deliver basic services to civilians.
“There are those who seek to fragment social components,” Al-Halbousi said, referring to the decision to cancel his membership. During the five years that we held the president of Parliament, we tried to repair earlier mismanagement, as no house was demolished during this time, and no “One person was absent, no one was arrested, and the law was applied.”
According to informed sources, Al-Halbousi’s dismissal could have an impact on the outcome of the upcoming elections, as the leaders of the Coordination Framework Alliance are meeting among themselves and with Sunni political parties, including the Alliance of Resolve, Sovereignty, and Solution, to discuss developments.
On Tuesday night, the “Sovereignty” coalition, led by Khamis al-Khanjar, issued a statement.
The “sovereignty” demand came after the “Al-Hal” Party, led by Jamal Al-Karbouli, and the “Al-Azm” Alliance, led by Muthanna Al-Samarrai, publicly supported the court’s judgment.
The coordination framework, which comprises all Shia groups save the Sadrist movement, will meet today, Wednesday, to review the current political events. While the State of Law coalition and Asaib Ahl al-Haq opposed any discussion of delaying provincial council elections following the boycott of Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr and the deportation of al-Halbousi.
Saad Al-Muttalabi, a member of the State of Law coalition, confirmed that the dismissal of Muhammad Al-Halbousi will not postpone or change the date of the elections, as the date has been fixed and there is political confirmation that they will be held next December and will not be affected by any internal or external influences.
In a statement, Al-Muttalabi stated, “The dismissal of Al-Halbousi from the position of Speaker of Parliament will not have an impact on the electoral process or the holding of the vote on the scheduled date scheduled for next month.”
He went on to say, “Al-Halbousi can remain head of his bloc, or the bloc may work to change its head, but he cannot run for elections after the charges and ruling issued against him by the Federal Supreme Court.”
In a statement, he said “the provincial council elections are underway and there is no influence or factor that can stop or postpone the date of their holding, and there is confirmation from the head of the State of Law coalition, Nouri al-Maliki, that these elections will be held on the specified date.”
The chairman of the Presidency of the Republic’s group of advisors and specialists declared on Wednesday that the provincial council elections on the 18th of next month will be crucial for the country.
In his opening remarks at the conference on the role of the media in boosting election participation, Ali Al-Shukri stated, “These elections are pivotal and come for the first time after the last elections for irregular governorate councils were held 10 years ago in 2013.”
There appears to be a concerted effort to remove Al-Halbousi from the political scene, as MP Basem Khashan wants to launch a fresh complaint against Al-Halbousi with the Federal Supreme Court over the decision to designate six advisors who did not satisfy the legal criteria.
Khashan stated on Twitter on Wednesday that the decision to revoke Muhammad al-Halbousi’s membership was made by the Federal Court, which was in violation of the political agreements reached between the parties.