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Iraqi Parliament Debates New 'Strategic Policy Council'

Ayad Allawi

Ayad Allawi

BAGHDAD -- A draft law on the establishment of Iraq's controversial National Council for Strategic Policy had its first reading in parliament as disagreements over details of the council persist, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

The council is meant to oversee some government policies, though its exact powers have yet to be defined.

Al-Iraqiyah parliamentary bloc member Ahmad Masari told RFI that "the bone of contention between [former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's] Al-Iraqiyah and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law (SoL) bloc is whether to have the head of the council elected by a vote in parliament, as we advocate, or by the council members themselves, as proposed by the SoL."

It is widely believed that the council will be headed by Allawi, whose party narrowly won last year's parliamentary elections over al-Maliki's SoL but failed to gain the support of the other parties in parliament to form a government.

The National Council for Strategic Policy is not in the Iraqi Constitution and therefore needs a law to support its creation. Politicians have debated how much power it should have.

Masari said that "the consensus among the respective factions is that the council will wield executive powers as long as its decisions are carried by 80 percent of the members' votes."

He said he expects this issue to be resolved after the bill's second reading.

SoL parliamentary group member Ahmad al-Abbasi told RFI that "the establishment of a National Council for Strategic Policy has been approved by all factions, but the SoL is of the view that the council is essentially a consultative body; otherwise, it will act as a government within the government."

But Mahmud al-Hasani, the SoL representative on the parliament's legal committee, told RFI that the bill contains at least eight articles that run counter to the constitution. He noted that Article 7, for example, infringes on the independence of the judiciary.

Hasani said if the bill is passed in its present form, the SoL will challenge it by appealing to the Supreme Court.

Al-Iraqiyah spokeswoman Maysoon al-Damaluji told RFI that "completing the first reading of the bill is a welcome step towards the national partnership agreed on by the Iraqi leaders."

She added that "we are surprised that objections have been raised by members of one of the major factions that agreed on the National Council for Strategic Policy at the Irbil summit of Iraqi leaders."

Damaluji said Al-Iraqiyah is appealing to all factions to maintain the positive spirit that prevailed at that meeting late last year in which a power-sharing agreement between SoL and Al-Iraqiyah was proposed.

Political scientist Osama Murtadha told RFI that Iraqis expect their politicians to iron out their differences before they vote on the bill.

"Brandishing the Supreme Court card whenever there is disagreement only makes things more complicated," he said.

Article 8 of the bill states that the National Council for Strategic Policy consists of the president of the republic and his vice presidents, the prime minister and his deputies, the speaker of parliament and his two deputies, the president of the Kurdish autonomous region, the president of the supreme judicial council, and two members from each of the four major parliamentary blocs.