Since the storming of Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and the seizure of the parliament building by followers of radical Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s parliament practically lost its relevance and credibility. Over the years, Iraq’s parliament has been at the center of many controversies ranging from inefficiency and corruption, to mismanagement and the absence of accountability. The recent questioning session of the Minister of Defense, Khalid al-Obaidi, was something out of the ordinary. Although what was said in the session was neither unexpected nor surprising, it was however, the first time a high-ranking official made such bold and confident declarations while naming those involved. Furthermore, it was a rare sight to see politicians from the same sect exchange blows. The questioning trial which lasted nearly 5 hours witnessed heated exchanges between the Defense Minister, Speaker of Parliament, and few MPs. The contentious trial witnessed a string of corruption allegations ranging from collusion, extortion, rigged biddings, false claims, bribery, and other irregularities. The Defense Minister accused Parliament President Salim al-Jabouri, as well as few MPs of politically targeting him as a result of his refusal to engage in corrupt activity. His accusations also touched members of the “Reform Front” which consists of MPs who defected from various parliamentary blocs and staged a sit-in protest in parliament last April demanding reformation, an end to the sectarian quota system, and the resignation of the three presidencies. While the timing in which the Minister of Defense has decided to come forward with these allegations is questionable, regardless of the outcome of the alleged corruption cases, those involved lost their integrity and cogency.
Although Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has moved to order the Parliamentary Integrity Committee to investigate all names indicted on corruption allegations in the questioning trial, it will prove futile since the Integrity Committee headed by Talal al-Zobaie is a parliament-appointed committee. The committee is subject to political manipulation and seduction. These practices have become all too common and the Iraqi street is growing tired of the unproductivity of the judiciary.
It is due time to put an end to this farce and press the reset button. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must exercise his power by dissolving parliament and holding early elections in accordance with Article 61 of the Iraqi Constitution that states: “The Council of Representatives may dissolve itself with the consent of the absolute majority of its members, upon the request of one-third of its members or upon the request of the Prime Minister and the consent of the President of the Republic.” Article 61 goes on to say: “Upon the dissolution of the Council of Representatives, the President of the Republic shall call for general elections in the country within a period not to exceed sixty days from the date of its dissolution.”
The dissolution of parliament and holding early elections will help resolve the political and corruption entanglements that the country finds itself in. While many will argue that the magnitude and timing of such changes is critical amid the country’s war on terror, the immensity of corruption within parliament that is disrupting growth and economic development cannot be postponed. Furthermore, it cannot be a preserve for government alone or a single institution. A comprehensive approach, realistic and measured, must be adopted to escort the country out of its political and economic quagmire. Implementing the long-awaited reforms, addressing corruption and security concerns, as well as enhancing the private sector’s capacity, can be the starting point of the next phase.
Mustafa Al-Khaqani is a researcher and a civil activist in Iraqi politics. Currently studying American politics and policy.