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With Parl. Speaker Al-Halbousi Removed by Supreme Court, Should Iraqis Expect New Political Crisis?

Monday 20 November 2023
With Parl. Speaker Al-Halbousi Removed by Supreme Court, Should Iraqis Expect New Political Crisis?

Alwaght- The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court’s ruling to remove the‌ parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi last week ripped through the Iraqi political scene like a tsunami, causing waves of reactions, worries, and analyses about what comes next to the country under the influence of this decision. 

What’s the story? 

The Federal Supreme Court of Iraq, as the country’s highest judicial authority, issued a final verdict on a case of forgery of documents filed against al-Halbousi by one of the former MPs, and ruled to remove al-Halbousi as speaker of the Council of Representatives. 

“According to the ruling issued therein, it was decided to terminate the membership of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Muhammad Rekan al-Halbousi,” a statement published on the court’s website read. The court also decided to terminate the membership of MP Laith Mustafa Hamoud Al-Dulaimi, who filed the case against the parliament speaker. 

Jassim Mohammad Abboud, the head of the Federal Supreme Court, confirmed on Thursday that the decision to terminate the membership of al-Halbousi is in effect since the date of issuance and is not subject to objection. 

It is noteworthy that the process was initiated since last February after a case filed with the Supreme Court by al-Dalimi who accused the parliament speaker of fabricating the date of his previous resignation. 

The interesting thing is that al-Dalimi himself is a Sunni and a member of al-Halbousi’s Progress Party, and in the last election that was held in October 2021, he joined the parliamentary elections within the ranks of this party from northern Baghdad constituencies. His membership, however, was revoked by al-Halbousi for his decline to commit to the orders of the party leadership. Still, he made his way to the parliament as a new member of the Al-Siyadah Party led by Khamis Khanjar as the most important rival of al-Halbousi among the Sunnis. 

After his resignation was approved, al-Dalimi described the decision “illegal and arbitrary” and called for confrontation of al-Halbousi “dictatorship.” 

He added that the constitution names some cases like resignation, illness, death, and crime that cause revocation of the membership of the parliament, adding that “we look forward to get enlightenment on the legal and not the political aspect” of that ruling. 

Beside al-Dalimi’s complaint against al-Halbousi, there have been legal cases against the dismissed parliament speaker. According to Al-Sumeriya News, earlier the MP Bassem Khashan had provided evidence showing al-Halbousi’s intervention in a contract with a foreign company whose manager is ex-Israeli Prime Minister. The most important mission of this company is normalization of the Israeli relations with other countries. 

Besides these cases, there are charges like economic corruption and also speculations about the “legendary” wealth of al-Halbousi made by politicians and media outlets critical of the speaker of the parliament. 

Al-Halbousi’s reaction

Since the announcement of the shocking and unexpected news of al-Halbousi’s removal from his post, the flood of internal reactions has continued non-stop, and in the meantime, in a speech at the House of Representatives session al-Halbousi described the ruling as politically-motivated, adding: “There are people who seek to fragment the political components of society.”

For his part, in a video message published by the parliament’s Facebook account, al-Halbousi said that the court ruling to end his membership was “odd” and that there are some people who intend to destabilize the country and that he will make revelations later. 

“We are surprised by the issuance of these decisions and the non-compliance with the constitution. We will resort to measures that preserve the constitution,” he continued. 

Al-Halbousi, the former governor of Anbar, was elected for the second time as the speaker of the Parliament in January 2022 after the early parliamentary elections held in October 2021, a position he held for the first time in 2018.

Immediately after the ruling of the Supreme Court, he removed the MPs of his party from the parliament, and three ministers close to him also resigned from the cabinet. 

In a statement, Progress Party said that the resigned ministers of culture, planning, and industry deem the Supreme Court’s ruling “an apparent violation of the constitution and a political blackmail.”

The parliament, which currently consists of 329 members, is under the dominance of a coalition of Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites, and the departure of the representatives of the Progress Party by al-Halbousi is aimed at putting pressure on the government, which was formed after a nearly two-year stalemate, and on the coalition supporting it. 

But despite al-Halbousi and his party’s reactions that are meant to put strains on the Supreme Court, its head on Thursday asserted that all were obliged to implement the ruling and that it is not subject to appeal. 

The challenge of al-Halbousi replacement: Simple yet difficult way to cross the crisis 

Choosing occupants for the main political positions in Iraq in recent years has been a challenging and difficult job. In al-Halbousi’s case, there are various speculations since he is rivalless among the fellow Sunni MPs. 

According to the laws of the Iraqi parliament, the first deputy speaker takes over the administration of the parliament until the election of a new person for the post of speaker. 

Former MP Mohsen al-Saadoun said that Mohsen al-Mandlawi, the first deputy speaker of the parliament, will take over the administration of the parliament until the election of a new speaker who will be nominated by one of the Sunni factions of the parliament. 

Jamaneh al-Ghalay, the official spokeswoman for Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission, for her part said that the Commission awaits a letter from the parliament asking it to name a replacement for al-Halbousi. 

“According to the election law of the Council of Representatives, whoever obtained the larger votes in the last election in the related constituency will replace al-Halbousi,” she said. 

The lists published by the Election Commission show that the candidate Isa Sayer Mouzan al-Issawi has the highest chance to enter the parliament by winning 4728 votes from the first district of Anbar province and from Azem Alliance”. 

However, the estimations about the hopefuls who must be from the Sunnis include names like Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Khaled al-Ubaidi, Ziyad al-Janabi, Salem al-Issawi, and Muthna al-Samiraee. 

In a statement on Tuesday night, the Al-Siyadah Coalition called for an urgent meeting of representatives of the Sunni political forces to discuss the next steps. 

The Sovereignty’s call came as Al-Hal Party led by Jamal al-Karbuli and Azem Alliance, led by Muthna al-Samiraee, supported the ruling. 

Al-Hasm Alliance said on Friday it names three candidates for the post of parliament speaker, including Talal al-Zabiee, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, and Salem al-Issawi. 

Al-Hasm includes all Sunni forces in Baghdad, excluding Progress Party of al-Halbousi and Azem Alliance. 

This coalition was founded by four prominent Sunni figures including ex-speaker of parliament Usama al-Nujaifi, al-Karbuli, former Finance Minister al-Issawi, and the current Defense Minister Thabet al-Abbasi. 

Political crisis ahead? 

In recent years, Iraq has been a theater to political crises due to social discontentment and political differences among elites and parties. An example is the several-month political vacuum that preceded the October 2021 parliamentary elections. 

And now, dismissal of al-Halbousi on the eve of the provincial elections set for December 18 raises concerns about possible influence of the ruling on the elections and even further complication of the country’s political scene, where internal differences have always led to formation and collapse of the coalitions among the main parties. On the other hand, outside the circle of competition, there is a person, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has already been seeking to boycott the election and impair its legitimacy. 

However, the leaders of the majority-holding Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) denied that the ruling was politically-motivated and rejected postponing the elections, and the bloc has already started its negotiations with Sunni rivals of al-Halbousi including Azem, Al-Siyadah, and Al-Hal. 

Saad al-Malabi, a member of the State of Law coalition led by ex-PM Nouri al-Maliki, held that the removal of al-Halbousi from his position will not postpone or change the date of the elections, because the date has been set and will not be influenced by any internal or external conditions. 

But certainly, in the coming days and weeks, the encounter of ranks of supporters and opponents of the court ruling will keep impacting Iraq’s political scene. 

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Iraq Supreme Court Al-Halbousi Parliament Crisis

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