Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 - 30 June 2004
Issue No. 696
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Third gear

The composition of the new Iraqi legislature will reflect the political realities of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, allegedly. Nermeen Al-Mufti reports from Baghdad

As 30 June approaches, it was reaffirmed that the interim Iraqi government will be under the supervision of the interim National Assembly. Even though the executive will officially administer affairs in the country, Iraq's new lawmakers will have the final say in how the country is to be governed. Once formed, the assembly will serve as the main pillar of the transitional phase in Iraq.

One of the most urgent tasks facing the interim Iraqi government will be to prepare for general elections, scheduled for January 2005 at the latest. For that purpose a national conference will convene by the end of July 2004. The higher committee entrusted with preparing for that conference has held its first meetings under the directorship of Dr Fouad Masoum.

Masoum, a key figure of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani, served as prime minister in the regional government in Al- Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.

Masoum told Al-Ahram Weekly that the militant Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr would be among 1,000 Iraqi public figures invited to participate in the national conference. These figures include politicians and tribal leaders, some of whom have been critical of the previous stage. Among those involved in the higher committee's preparations are Al-Sharif Ali Bin Al-Hussein, Sheikh Jawad Al- Khalisi, Sheikh Harith Al-Dari and Dr Wamid Omar Nazmi, along with figures drawn from the parties represented in the disbanded Interim Governing Council (IGC) and Iraq's current public scene.

Masoum said that 19 women are on the higher committee, including Safiyah Al-Suheil and Wedad Al-Qeisi. He added that 21 representatives from Iraqi governorates, including four from Baghdad, have been named to the higher preparatory committee. These will serve along with 22 members of the disbanded IGC who have not been given ministerial portfolios.

The higher preparatory committee, Masoum pointed out, "is formed of 65 members, 25 per cent of whom are women. Each governorate will be represented with one person, except Baghdad which will be presented by four."

Masoum said that the higher preparatory committee would call for a national conference by the end of July 2004. The conference's duty will be to select 79 members who, along with 22 former IGC members, will form the Iraqi parliament, which will have 101 members.

Asked if the selection of 79 non-appointed members will take place through consensus or voting, Masoum said that "both cases are being discussed and it is too early to say which one will be chosen. First of all, we will have to have bylaws to define the manner in which the conference will operate. We will call on the help of international experts with sufficient experience in managing conferences. There are many ideas open for discussion, but the final formula will be agreed upon within the conference."

The first meeting of the higher preparatory committee was held on 20 June, with 72 members attending from a total of 90. The members were distributed among five committees entrusted with political matters, human rights, the mechanism of selection at the conference, regulations implemented during the conference and the method of selecting members of the National Assembly. The committees will continue their work through panel sessions and will form a sub-committee that will work daily to prepare the documents related to each committee's work, in consultation with Iraqi and United Nation officials.

Speaking at a news conference earlier this week, Masoum promised that progress would be smooth inside and outside the meetings. He said that the interim National Assembly will have the right to object to cabinet decisions, will oversee the interim government's performance and will be entrusted with endorsing the 2005 budget.

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