In October final 12 months, the Iraqi parliament authorized a new authorities with a mandate to jump-start political reforms. Amongst its priorities is the modification of Iraq’s problematic structure.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani made step one on this course of by appointing Hassan al-Yasseri as his constitutional adviser. In the meantime, the parliament has introduced that it’ll kind a constitutional revision committee.
This is not going to be the primary time that Iraq makes an attempt to reform its structure because it entered into power in 2005. Constitutional revision committees have been shaped in 2009 and 2019, however each of these efforts petered out, primarily because of a failure to construct momentum.
If this newest initiative is to achieve success, classes ought to be realized from the earlier failed makes an attempt to amend the structure, but in addition from optimistic examples of constitutional reform in different international locations.
An inclusive constitutional course of
When earlier Iraqi governments undertook constitutional reform, they closed off the final inhabitants from the method. Some makes an attempt to be inclusive have been made, together with by way of a really small variety of consultations with civil society organisations, however these conferences have been unstructured, and the outcomes have been usually ignored. The discussions that came about have been restricted to elite circles, and no momentum or public curiosity was constructed across the course of.
If the brand new initiative is to work, a much wider vary of voices have to be included to assist constitutional negotiators decide the true order of priorities, as a substitute of simply specializing in the identical points which were consuming them previously. This could and may occur by way of quite a lot of means, together with by encouraging Iraqis to specific their priorities en masse.
On this, the Iraqi authorities can comply with the instance of South Africa. When it launched a constitutional course of following the tip of apartheid, the South African authorities invited the final inhabitants to specific their priorities in writing. Some 1.7 million submissions have been obtained, which the drafters took into consideration.
South Africans have been motivated to take part as a result of the related authorities led a profitable marketing campaign to generate curiosity within the course of and since there was a normal feeling that the structure might deliver actual change to the nation.
In 2005, throughout Iraq’s personal constitutional course of, a public outreach physique was established however it got here to be dominated by one political celebration – the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (then often called the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) – which sought to skew the leads to its favour. Because of this, nobody took the initiative critically.
If such a course of is launched as we speak, it should forged the online extensively and stay impartial from the principle political teams so as to protect its credibility.
Inclusivity can’t simply be restricted to reaching out to as many individuals as potential at a horizontal degree. Additionally it is about giving the method extra depth, by offering specialist teams with decision-making authority on how the structure can and ought to be formed.
The instance of Kenya’s 2010 structure is instructive right here. In the course of the drafting part, a committee of consultants was given nearly equal decision-making energy because the parliamentary committee. The tip outcome was a structure that allowed Kenya to make important progress in strengthening the rule of legislation.
Certainly one of Iraq’s main flaws has at all times been that reform efforts are dominated by a small circle from throughout the political class, and that any enter from outdoors that small circle is commonly ignored. That method of continuing has contributed to important weaknesses in policymaking, a development that have to be overturned by permitting others to wield actual affect over the method.
Lastly, and simply as importantly, the negotiation course of itself have to be organised in another way from earlier makes an attempt. The 2019 constitutional reform course of, which I had the prospect to witness personally, began on the incorrect footing. The primary conferences of the related committees have been devoted to discussing different wording of particular provisions.
Committee members talked previous one another, as they every recommended particular varieties of adjustments, ignoring no matter else was being stated. That method of continuing contributed to the sense that nothing can be achieved, which itself led to the method ultimately being deserted altogether.
That’s the reason, this time round, negotiations ought to begin as a dialogue between the completely different sides on what their pursuits are. It is just after both sides understands the opposite’s pursuits that widespread floor will be explored to succeed in a potential settlement. How particular person provisions are worded can come after that has been achieved.
Reforming the citizen-state relationship
In 2019, Iraq witnessed the biggest common rebellion within the nation’s historical past. The calls for of the protesters ought to have triggered political impetus to reform the connection between citizen and state, to deepen the safety of socioeconomic rights and to revolutionalise Iraq’s anti-corruption framework.
As an alternative, the constitutional revision committee that was established centered most of its consideration on debating the construction and system of presidency and paid little or no consideration to particular person rights and the state of public providers.
Any significant constitutional effort that’s undertaken in 2023 should tackle common grievances. One of many predominant issues Iraq has been experiencing all through its trendy historical past is that the structure theoretically gives for civil and political rights, however doesn’t clearly point out what constitutes a authentic limitation of these rights and what doesn’t.
For instance, whereas freedom of expression is theoretically assured, the structure doesn’t present policymakers or the courts with any steerage as as to whether or not the proper to criticise public officers or accuse them of corruption is protected.
The absence of clear steerage has inspired policymakers to unreasonably prohibit rights and has robbed the courts of the instruments that they should curb govt overreach. On this, Iraq might study from the expertise of different international locations, together with Tunisia’s 2014 structure, which explicitly supplied that each one limitations of rights needed to respect the precept of proportionality, a progressive normal that’s spreading throughout trendy democracies.
Iraq must also study from different World South international locations, reminiscent of Colombia, which have eradicated the excellence between civil and political rights on the one hand, and socioeconomic rights, on the opposite. This makes the proper to training, healthcare, housing, and different advantages straight enforceable.
If Iraq have been to incorporate such provisions in its new structure, this is able to permit residents to deliver claims within the courts within the occasion the federal government has did not fulfill its constitutional obligations to them. It could additionally permit the judiciary to order the federal government to take action. Such a transfer wouldn’t be a panacea for Iraq’s many socioeconomic issues, however it could be a step in the proper route.
Equally vital is the structure’s oversight framework, which is ill-conceived, poorly worded and stuffed with contradictions. The structure’s extremely imperfect preparations have made it simpler for corruption to unfold by way of the state nearly unchallenged.
Every of the nation’s predominant oversight establishments (the audit establishment, the anti-corruption physique and the courts) will want strong mandates and much higher ensures of independence, together with higher management over their budgets and the appointment of senior employees.
Federalism and type of authorities
Constitutional reform must also tackle political challenges that the nation has confronted since 2003, which can even permit the state to focus extra of its consideration on the inhabitants’s urgent wants.
Particularly, Iraq’s federal system will stay a supply of instability until a brand new cut price is struck between the central authorities and the Kurdistan Regional Authorities. This subject would require the completely different political forces within the nation to barter a standard understanding of what federalism is meant to realize and construct an institutional relationship round that understanding.
Baghdad and Erbil should perceive one another’s core pursuits, develop artistic options that permit for these core pursuits to be defended and assured, and provide compromises the place acceptable.
Above all, each side should perceive that federalism is not only a way to carve out decision-making authority throughout territory and political strains. Relatively, it’s a means by way of which social solidarity will be protected throughout the borders of a single nation.
The type of authorities in Iraq has additionally been introduced up for dialogue. Some political forces in Baghdad have known as for a transfer in the direction of a presidential or semi-presidential system. However previous expertise in Iraq, and up to date expertise in international locations reminiscent of Tunisia, show past doubt that straight elected presidents invariably search to monopolise decision-making (and normally succeed) with none significant enchancment within the nation’s governance.
That end result is neither fascinating nor potential in a rustic reminiscent of Iraq. Certainly, a transfer in the direction of higher presidential energy will doubtless by no means be accepted by lots of the nation’s predominant political teams. Because of this, any dialogue of the system of presidency ought to focus not on methods to give a chief govt extra authority, however on methods to transfer in the direction of a extra profitable type of parliamentary democracy.
Iraq faces quite a lot of overwhelming challenges and making an attempt to deal with them by way of the identical strategies which have failed previously is not going to obtain something. A brand new method is important, a extra inclusive one, and one which focuses on the pursuits of the inhabitants as a complete, and never simply the pursuits of the political class. If that may be achieved, Iraq may have come a great distance in the direction of really turning the web page.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.