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Iraqi Deputies Question Need For Three Vice Presidents

Iraqi Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi speaks during a news conference in September.
Iraqi Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi speaks during a news conference in September.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi politicians say the country does not need to have three vice presidents when the presidential post itself is largely ceremonial, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Politicians from various Iraqi parliament factions say the issue of multiple vice presidents is symptomatic of a more serious flaw in Iraq's political system.

Ali Shlah, a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's National Alliance parliamentary bloc, told RFI that following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the downfall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, Iraq opted for consensual rather than majority-rule democracy.

He said this has "resulted in having the three major communities represented, sometimes only symbolically, at all levels."

Shlah said that "this arrangement finds its manifestation not only in the office of vice president, but at all ministries, where a Kurd, a Sunni, and a Shi'a serve as deputy minister with an adverse impact on the country's political development as a whole."

Wahda al-Jumaily, a member of the Al-Iraqiyah parliamentary bloc, told RFI that "the consensus requirement in decision-making means leaders of the major blocs get together behind closed doors to strike deals, then come up with an agreement on one issue or another."

She said "the drawbacks of the consensus formula are best evidenced in the ongoing disagreement between the political factions on the three vice presidents, with the Sadrists and Al-Iraqiyah objecting to one of the three nominees."

Al-Jumaily added that "horse-trading has been going on between the leaders of the big factions in order to present three nominees to be voted as one package, rather than voting on each one individually."

Mahmud Othman, a member of the Kurdish parliamentary bloc, told RFI that "due to a lack of consensus between the major blocs the Interior, Defense, and National Security ministries have been vacant for more than three months."

Mahmud said "the same goes for the three vice presidents to be agreed on, despite the fact that the president himself has limited powers and one vice president would be more than enough."

Mahmud pointed out that "the office of vice president is a financial burden, considering that each of the three vice presidents has his own staff, office building, bodyguards, prerogatives, etc."

Legal expert Tariq Harb told RFI that "by law, the vice presidents have to be approved by parliament, yet two have been in office for some time now, receiving a monthly salary and enjoying all the privileges and benefits that go with the position [but without parliamentary approval]."

In response to public protests, the parliament has recently passed a bill reducing the vice president's monthly salary by 80 percent, from 60 million dinars (some $51,000) to 12 million dinars.