Federal Assembly to Act as Insurance for the Kurdistan Region

15/10/2012 RUDAW By ADNAN HUSSEIN – BAGHDAD, Iraq—A proposed bill to create a federal assembly is being reviewed by Iraqi Parliament. A Kurdish lawmaker believes the federal assembly will act as insurance for the Kurds.

Sheikh Latif, a member of the legal committee in Iraqi Parliament, said that such an assembly is mentioned in articles 137 and 135 of the Iraqi constitution. “Every federal system must have two assemblies, including a national assembly and a federal assembly,” he said. Latif told Rudaw, “The assembly will protect the rights of the provinces and the regions of Iraq.” Azad Abubakr, a lawmaker from the Kurdistan Alliance, said that establishing the federal assembly is important. “All the power is concentrated in the hands of the central government. The assembly will diminish the executive branch’s power to revoke bills that have been passed by parliament.”

“The assembly will guarantee the rights of the Kurdistan Region and the other provinces,” Abubakr added. “Bills against the Kurdistan Region’s interests won’t easily pass.” He said that, based on constitutional articles 105 and 106, two important committees will be created to monitor the distribution of Iraq’s income and these committees will be directly overseen by the federal assembly. The federal assembly will consist of 67 members, including four representatives from each province. However, Baghdad will have eight representatives.

Latif said that it would be a mistake if the Kurdistan Region had the same number of representatives as other provinces. “The other provinces must establish their regions or the number of representative from the Kurdistan Region must be increased.” Abubakr said that they suggested that Kurdistan’s situation be considered special. “Each province should have two representatives, and the Kurdistan Region has 10 members,” he said. According to the proposed bill, the representatives must be elected. However, this point has not yet been finalized and may change during discussions. Latif also said that a new provision to the bill was proposed that would allow regions to veto any legislation not in their interests. However, he added that the proposal would face opposition in parliament and had little chance of being approved.  The Kurdistan Region is the only independent region in Iraq. Last year, the provinces of Tikrit, Diyala and Basra attempted to create their own regions, but the central government strongly opposed their efforts.

According to the constitution, parliament needs the federal assembly’s approval to pass bills. If the federal assembly rejects a draft bill, it would be returned to parliament for amendment. If the federal assembly turns the proposed bill down a second time, parliament can pass the bill with a vote from two-thirds of its members. “This complicated method of passing bills will become a guarantee for the Kurds,” Latif said.

Last month, the United Nations representative in Iraq called on Iraqi political factions to not delay the establishment of the federal assembly any longer.  The speaker of Iraqi parliament also expressed his support of the assembly.

However, some of the main factions in parliament are still creating obstacles in opposition to the idea.“The proposed bill has not yet been discussed in parliament,” Abubakr said. “There are already some people in parliament who are determined to oppose it.” Rudaw has learned that the State of Law Coalition, led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, plans to oppose the proposal because the assembly would diminish the power of the central government.The federal assembly might act as a substitute for the assembly for political strategy that was to be formed according to the Erbil Agreement.  Ayad Alawai, head of Iraqiya List – the largest Sunni bloc in parliament — was to head the assembly. Some believe Alawai or another Sunni leader might be given a similar position in the federal assembly, which may be another reason the State Law is opposing it.