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WikiLeaks: 2007-12-17: 07BAGHDAD4108: COR Issues Update

by WikiLeaks. 07BAGHDAD4108: December 17, 2007.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 08:34 PM UT

Viewing cable 07BAGHDAD4108, COR ISSUES UPDATE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07BAGHDAD4108 2007-12-17 18:28 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad

DE RUEHGB #4108/01 3511828
R 171828Z DEC 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 004108 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2017 
Classified By: PolCouns Matt Tueller 1.4 (b) and (d) 
1. (C) Summary:  Iraq's Council of Representatives (COR) is 
scheduled to reconvene on December 30, following its three 
week hiatus for the Hajj and the Eid holiday.  It has the 
Budget Law and Accountability and Justice (i.e., the 
de-Ba'ath law) to deal with during the January extension of 
its regular term.  Attendance and participation by COR 
members varies greatly from member to member.  Some, 
including party and bloc leaders such as former prime 
ministers Jaafari and Allawi, rarely show up at all.  Efforts 
by the COR leadership to tighten up attendance have had 
little effect.  Deputy Speaker Al-Attiya is among the most 
committed to whipping the COR into shape, even taking the 
matter public ealier this month.  Speaker Mashadani lacks the 
same commitment, sometimes speaking loudly on members' 
failure to attend but carrying a small stick.  But the bottom 
line for us is that the COR's absenteeism problem, serious as 
that is, is not at the root of delays in passing legislation 
or the failure to do so.  Once behind the scenes political 
arrangements are done, the COR leadership and key bloc and 
party leaders will round up the necessary members to have 
legislation passed.  It is the tortuous route to reaching the 
point where a vote can be held that bedevils the process and 
disappoints and frustrates Iraqis and outside observers 
alike.  End Summary 
2. (C) The Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR) is the 
country's unicameral parliament. Its 275 members reflect the 
ethnic and sectarian make up of Iraq. Between 40 and 50 
percent are Arab Shia; Arab Sunni and Kurd members each make 
up around 20 percent; the rest are a potpourri of Turkman, 
Yezidi, Assyrian, Shabek and other minority representatives. 
The COR members are in office as a result of the December 
2005 election and were sworn in on March 16, 2006. They are 
serving four year terms. There is a constitutionally mandated 
eight-month annual term, divided in two. COR bylaws set the 
start and end dates of the spring and fall terms on, 
respectively, March 1 to June 30 and September 1 to December 
30. The COR as a whole is convened intermittently during 
these terms, with many days set aside for committee work 
(there are 24 COR committees), go on official trips, or other 
tasks. The COR meets in what used to be Baghdad's convention 
center; office space for members and committees is makeshift. 
Security is tight and enforced strictly since a suicide 
bomber got into the building in April, killing one and 
injuring many others. The COR's guard force is now entirely 
Kurdish Pesh Merga. 
3. (C) Attendance by the Iraqi representatives at COR 
sessions and the seriousness with which they take their 
responsibilities vary widely by member. On any given day, 
there are between 100 and 150 members absent. The requirement 
for a quorum of 138 members is oftentimes not met. The COR, 
however, can continue to discuss draft laws and conduct other 
business even in the absence of a quorum so long as the 
previous day,s session was continued and not closed. The 
Speaker, Mahmoud Mashadani, and the First Deputy Speaker 
Sheikh Khaled Al-Attiya (who is often in charge), frequently 
resort to this parliamentary maneuver to reconvene sessions 
and maintain some COR momentum. Actual votes do require at 
least 138 members present. But the COR leadership and 
principal figures in the various blocs can and do round up 
the necessary numbers of members in order to pass key 
legislation. It,s the slow and tortuous route taken to the 
point where a vote can finally be held that is frustrating 
and sometimes inexplicable, both to Iraqis and outsiders. 
4. (C) The COR's twin two-month breaks and the large scale 
absenteeism together give the impression of leisureliness and 
inattentiveness that stand in marked contrast to the urgency 
of the country's problems. Compounding the problem this year 
(as last) is the current three-week unscheduled December 
hiatus for the Hajj and the Eid Al-Adha holiday. The COR's 
last session was on December 6 and it is not scheduled to 
resume business until December 30. The current term will be 
extended into January. The COR did not pass the budget before 
it adjourned and is required by the constitution to return to 
work on that.  It also has the Accountability and Justice 
draft before it, something that Deputy Speaker Al-Attiya said 
would be on the January agenda.  The COR presidency (the 
speaker and his two deputies) have tried to tighten up 
attendance. Absent members' names are now read at the 
beginning of each session, fines for unauthorized absenteeism 
have been raised, and the speaker has even threatened to 
suspend members for not showing up (probably an empty threat 
given constitutional protections that members enjoy). But 
these measures seem to have had modest, if any, effect. 
Members, for instance, will sign in as present (or have 
others sign in for them) and then fail to appear during the 
day's session. 
5. (C) Deputy Speaker Al-Attiya, among the most consistently 
hard-working members, went public with strong criticism of 
members' Hajj pilgrimages on December 5 and then directly 
confronted them during that day's session. The members' 
reaction was instructive. A representative who loudly 
rebutted Sheikh Khaled, blaming the GOI for the lack of 
legislative progress and claiming that Khaled was giving the 
COR a bad name before the public, was applauded all around. 
Also instructive, the next day Speaker Mashadani abruptly and 
without explanation cut short proceedings, adjourned until 
December 30, and began making his own plans for a Hajj trip. 
6. (C) We asked for and received COR absenteeism figures for 
this year (March 12 through July 30 and September 4 through 
November 19). There are three absence categories: approved 
leave, sick leave, and unexcused leave. We have translated 
and sorted those by political bloc and sent the raw 
tabulations to NEA/I. We are seeking figures through the 
December 6 end date. These numbers have some, if limited, 
utility. From our own observation of COR sessions we can see 
that far too many members are shown as having zero absences, 
making the basic statistical practices underlying the data 
questionable. Nonetheless, these figures do give us a 
reasonable idea of who is not showing up. One fact that 
stands out (and matches our own observation) is that some 
bloc leaders and party leaders are among the worst offenders. 
Well known figures such as Ibrahim Al-Ja,afari (Dawa), Ayad 
Allawi (Iraqiya), Salih Mutlaq (National Dialogue), Adnan 
Al-Duleymi (Tawafuq), have poor attendance records. Former PM 
Allawi is likely the worst offender of all, the one COR 
member who may never have attended even one session. Abdul 
Azez Al-Hakeem ((UIA/ISCI) has a lengthy sick leave record; 
many other members also have dozens of sickness related 
absences. The figures tend to support our observation that 
the Kurds are the most consistent attendees. 
7. (C) Accurately judging COR attendance records is hard 
enough, but less difficult than identifying who voted for 
what. Votes are done by a show of hands that are counted by 
the two &rapporteurs8 who sit below the speaker and deputy 
speakers. &Recording8 of the votes is captured on video 
tape and archived. Sessions are filmed in their entirety by 
internal COR employed cameramen and only edited versions of 
the proceedings are provided to the news media for broadcast. 
Security concerns make members wary of having their votes 
made public.  While there is an electronic system for vote 
counting in the chamber, it is not in use. We understand that 
it has not been activated, at least in part, because it would 
enable members to vote sight unseen by their bloc leaders, 
something the latter will not accept. Under these 
circumstances, votes are predictably along bloc lines, with 
the Kurds, once again, being the most consistent in their 
voting patterns. 


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