Rewriting the Iraqi Constitution is a national necessity

The current Iraqi Constitution has helped consecrate and promote the policy of exclusion and marginalisation of the constituents of the Iraqi population rather than consecrate tolerance.
Saturday 27/07/2019
Distrust rules. Iraqi demonstrators gather during a protest against the poor performance of parliament and government, and lack of services, in front of the Governorate building in Basra, July 19. (Reuters)
Distrust rules. Iraqi demonstrators gather during a protest against the poor performance of parliament and government, and lack of services, in front of the Governorate building in Basra, July 19. (Reuters)

The Iraqi Constitution was drafted under direct US military occupation of Iraq. The political forces and parties that allied themselves with the occupier and became part of the Iraqi Governing Council should have been more careful in adopting the new draft because the constitution represents a pact between the state and Iraqi society and it is shameful for the council to take advantage of the diversity in the Iraqi social fabric to consecrate divisiveness and wipe out the Iraqi national identity.

The novice rulers of the time ought to have refused the dictates of the Bush administration and coalition Administrator Paul Bremer. It would have been better to draft a provisional constitution for a transition period to avoid what later happened.

Today, after 15 years of crises created by the constitution, the idea of rewriting or modifying it does not sound incompatible with requirements imposed by Iraq’s current and future status. In fact, redrafting the constitution has become a necessity for change in the structure of the fragmented and sectarian political system and for preserving the country from more serious repercussions, particularly in the current circumstances in which a military coup is no longer a solution to the problems of power.

However, Islamist politicians who gobbled up many of the spoils of the wealth of Iraq found the constitution a shield for their ill-gotten assets, even though they readily evade some of its provisions whenever the provisions conflict with their interests.

All that the Shia and Kurdish leaders of the time were interested in was to speed up the process of power-sharing rather than laying the foundation for the new Iraqi state. Thus, they blessed and ratified constitutional clauses that deliberately omitted Iraq’s Arab identity.

Power ended up in the hands of followers of Shia political Islam and they were joined by Sunni political Islamists and other Sunni Arabs who were political novices with no clear vision or serious commitment to building a sound, democratic Iraq.

All of them were delighted with the golden opportunity provided by Bremer and rushed to share power in a system that would be codified by a constitution that established the prelude to the sectarian fragmentation of Iraq and plunged the country in perpetual crises that grow with time, without consideration for the general Iraqi public, especially in the western regions, where citizens boycotted the referendum on the new constitution but were ignored anyway.

In that rotten environment of collecting the spoils of war, there had been many compromises that had nothing to do with the interests of the country and whose main purpose was to get many of the articles of the new constitution passed. Thus, the Shia leadership caved in to the Kurdish dictates to consecrate Kurdistan’s semi-independence status since 1992 and add new gains, most notably the devolution of the federal solution to governorates outside Kurdistan, which had its own nationalistic specificities.

The constitution also assumed the existence of border problems between the Kurdistan region and other cities of Iraq as if Iraq was not a single country but a “federal” system. The constitution even has articles related to so-called “disputed” areas, especially oil-rich Kirkuk, and that opened the gates to political crises between the Kurdistan region and Baghdad concerning the distribution of oil revenues in addition to the issue of armed militias.

It was this constitution that allowed the Kurdish leadership to demand the right of Kurdish independence from Iraq. Ironically, the Kurds, who had been pioneers in drafting and forcing the adoption of constitutional formulations in their favour, are the ones who object to the current constitution and have filed for the abrogation of 63 constitutional violations in it.

The current constitution has helped to consecrate and support the policy of exclusion and marginalisation of the constituents of the Iraqi population rather than promote and consecrate tolerance. It reinforced the dominance of Islamic parties and made it possible to abuse political power and the country’s economic capacities.

The result has been the creation of an empire of corruption that destroys the lives of Iraqi citizens and prevents them from enjoying their country’s wealth, which is being siphoned by corrupt politicians in total impunity.

Let’s not forget that the role of the country’s parliament has been severely curtailed so as not to reflect people’s demands for strict control of and oversight over various shady financial transactions. In fact, the role of the parliament is to thwart any serious attempt at reform.

There is no justice in the executive policies in Iraq. Thus, the millions of Iraqis who do not belong to or support Shia Islamic parties find themselves deprived of their rights. Let’s not even talk about how Iraqi sovereignty is being trampled by allowing regional and international interventions.

The task of rewriting the Iraqi Constitution has become a major national need. Every Iraqi should become involved in a serious national campaign to achieve this goal for the sake of protecting the country and the future of its citizens.

This should be carried out within the political framework of preserving the unity of Iraq, insisting on the civil character of its system, considering it as part of the Arab world, defending its sovereignty, outlawing sectarian politics and the quota system in selecting the country’s three presidencies, changing the country’s political system to a presidential regime based on direct voting, reinforcing the state’s institutions and immunising them from corruption and closing the doors once and for all on attempts to militarise the society.