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WikiLeaks: 2008-05-17: 08BAGHDAD1524: The Iraqi Council of Representatives: an Institution Still in Development

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD1524: May 17, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 12:56 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD1524 2008-05-17 08:23 SECRET Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #1524/01 1380823
R 170823Z MAY 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 001524 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2018 
REF: A. COR REPORT 2/5/2008 
     B. COR REPORT 2/13/2008 
     C. COR REPORT 4/26/2008 
Classified By: Political Counselor Matt Tueller for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
1. (C) Summary.  The Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) 
held its first session on March 16, 2006, and since then, has 
developed into a working democratic institution.  Speaker 
Mashadani and Deputy Khalid Attiyah are increasingly pressing 
CoR members to adhere to the CoR by-laws, but hiccups in 
legislative procedure still remain.  The voting process needs 
improvement, particularly to address cases of narrow votes. 
Absenteeism among members also often results in a lack of 
quorum and loss of productivity.  Stature, power, and party 
affiliation of a committee chair directly impact its 
productivity.  Patronage and nepotism prevail in hiring 
staff.  The USG -- through the National Democratic Institute 
(NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI), and the 
Embassy's Office of Constitutional and Legislative Affairs -- 
is providing technical assistance to improve these capacity 
challenges.  Now two years old, the CoR and its leadership 
will need to improve its productivity as well as its 
reputation with the Iraqi people as a democratic institution. 
 End Summary. 
2. (C) Legislative procedure in the CoR is woefully lacking. 
The biggest problem is that no CoR member knows what will be 
discussed the next day.  According to the by-laws, the CoR's 
agenda is to be prepared two days in advance.  The CoR's 
General Director for Media Mohammad Abubaker, told PolOff, 
however, "This has never happened, not even once!"  The CoR 
Presidency Council comes to an agreement on the agenda the 
morning of the session, which is supposed to start at 11:00 
a.m., but instead starts at 1:00 p.m. or 1:30 p.m.  Committee 
heads receive little (or no) notice regarding whether 
legislation from their committee will be read on any day.  It 
is also common for a first or second reading to be skipped 
over, simply because no one on the committee was informed or 
prepared.  Sometimes the CoR leadership jumps around on the 
agenda without any announcement, leaving members confused 
regarding the next topic.  Legislation is also read with 
typos -- or even the wrong draft -- which occurred during the 
second reading of the amnesty law on February 5, 2008 (ref 
A).  Speaker Mashadani and Deputy Speaker Attiyah are just 
now beginning to adhere more strictly to the CoR by-laws, by 
asking that statements be submitted in advance and by 
criticizing ill-prepared committees. 
3. (C) The voting process in the CoR is democratic -- but not 
very accurate.  When a vote occurs during the session, 
members quickly raise and lower their hands within seconds. 
However, they do not do this in unison, making it virtually 
impossible for the rapporteur (a member appointed to record 
the minutes and votes) -- or anyone else -- to tally the 
voting with any precision.  Although an electronic voting 
system is in place, the CoR staff who manage the equipment 
insist members will not use it because they do not want their 
vote "tracked" and do not trust the staff.  Although some 
votes are unanimous, the votes on the provincial powers law, 
in particular, illustrate why a better system is needed. 
Specifically, a dispute over a close vote on February 13 
(when the law passed) on an article regarding the elections 
deadline (October 1, 2008) ignited violent protests.  In this 
situation, Mashadani and Attiyah made a "quick" decision to 
declare the provision passed, in accordance with prior 
political agreement, to ensure passage of the bill (ref B). 
One way the CoR could ensure greater transparency is to make 
each member stand and then sit as their vote is counted. 
4. (C) Absenteeism in the CoR is a large problem, 
particularly since 139 members are required for quorum in 
order to hold a vote.  The political parties also use the 
issue of quorum as a form of protest (i.e. walk-out).  Some 
CoR members "sign in," but then leave to sit in the cafeteria 
(or depart the building) before the session starts.  Naser 
Rubaie (Sadrist Bloc Leader) is one of the biggest offenders. 
 Many of the key bloc leaders (i.e. Abdul Aziz Hakim, former 
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, former Prime Minister Ibrahim 
Jafari and Saleh Mutlaq) refuse to participate in CoR 
sessions.  Instead, they defer their authority to other CoR 
members in their bloc.  Mashadani and Attiyah, however, are 
BAGHDAD 00001524  002 OF 003 
now less bashful about shaming members regarding their 
absentee record.  In a particularly egregious example of 
absenteeism, one CoR member is said to be a full-time 
resident of Iran.  During the final votes on the provincial 
powers law, 2008 budget, and amnesty law, Speaker Mashadani 
threatened to dock the salaries of those who were not present 
and go to the media with their names.  On April 26, Mashadani 
also publicly read off the names of those CoR members with 
the highest absentee records (ref C).  While Mashadani does 
not usually follow through with his threats, his repeated 
steps to emphasize this issue may start to have an impact. 
5. (C) Power dominates the committee system.  The 
effectiveness of the committees is dependent on leadership 
and on how active those members are within the CoR.  The 
stature of the Chair, party affiliation, and relationship 
between the Chair and Deputy of a committee also impacts its 
productivity.  For example, the two co-Chairs of the 
Economic, Reconstruction and Investment Committee Haider 
al-Abadi (Dawa) and Yonadam Kanna (Assyrian Christian) work 
well together.  Legislation tends to move more efficiently 
through their committee as a result.  Other committees, such 
as the Legal Committee with Chair Baha Araji (Sadrist) and 
Deputy Salim Jibouri (IIP) are not as well synched.  ISCI 
member Ridha Taqi told PolOff that Jibouri is more qualified 
than Araji, and that Araji's lack of legal expertise slows 
down the committee's work.  Similarly, Chair of the 
Governorates and Regions Committee Hashim al-Tae (IIP) and 
Deputy Nada al-Sudani (Dawa) often provide conflicting 
information on legislation (i.e. provincial powers), 
presumably due to their different party affiliations and 
6. (C) Staffing at the CoR is largely based on relationships 
with the CoR leadership, leaving the system open to patronage 
and nepotism.  For example, CoR Speaker Mahmoud Mashadani's 
son, Abdul Basit, is his Chief of Staff.  Division staff have 
no control in the process.  The CoR's General Director for 
Media Mohammad Abubaker, told PolOff in late April that he 
has no say in selecting staff in his section.  Committee 
staffing is not much different.  Most of the staff are 
closely tied to the party bloc affiliation of the chair of 
the Committee.  Even staff in the CoR's badging office -- the 
gatekeepers -- are affiliated closely to Deputy Sheikh Khalid 
Attiyah and march to the orders of Attiyah's Chief of Staff 
Ahmad Qurashi.  The Research Directorate, modeled after the 
US Congressional Research Service, cannot escape sectarianism 
either.  Saifadain Rahman, now a senior advisor to VP Tariq 
al-Hashimi, founded the Research Directorate (with IRI 
assistance) and told Poloff his intention was to staff it 
with "independents" to ensure professionalism and to provide 
unbiased analysis to CoR members.  However, he said he 
battled the CoR leadership on this issue and lost. 
7. (C) Power rules in the allotment of office space at the 
CoR.  Offices are organized by CoR leadership, party bloc, 
and committees.  CoR Speaker Mashadani, Deputy Sheikh Khalid 
Attiyah, and Second Deputy Speaker Teyfour's Offices all 
naturally have offices encompassing entire corridors.  Each 
of the party coalitions also have their own offices, with UIA 
and the Kurdish offices as the largest.  Fadila's Office, on 
the other hand, is tiny.  This system leaves independents 
with no space -- except the cafeteria.  One independent CoR 
member Safia Souhail told PolOff she complained to Speaker 
Mashadani on this issue, asking for more support.  The 
stature and power of committee chairs and deputies also 
dictates obtaining good office space.  Prominent committees, 
such as the Foreign Relations Committee Chaired by ISCI bloc 
leader Hummam Hammoudi, are upscale and large.  Committees 
chaired by "movers and shakers," such as the Labor and 
Services Committee (Abdullah Saleh - KDP) and Economic 
Committee (Haider Abadi - Dawa) also have decent space.  In 
comparison, the office for the Governorates and Regions 
Committee chaired by Hashim al-Taee (IIP) is located on the 
third floor in an obscure enclave. 
8. (C) Post has targeted programs focused on assisting the 
Council of Representatives.  Through DRL funding, NDI and IRI 
have been granted $50 USD million each to focus on political 
party development and democratic initiatives.  Both train the 
BAGHDAD 00001524  003 OF 003 
CoR members on various strategies for moving their platforms 
forward.  As an example, NDI said they work with Education 
Committee Chair Ala Makki to provide training on how to 
advance the committee's initiatives.  The Office of 
Constitutional and Legislative Affairs in the Embassy also 
provides training to CoR members on legislative drafting and 
analysis, interacting with the executive branch, and right 
now is providing specialized technical assistance on the 
elections law.  While the Iraqi CoR is making progress, it 
still needs to become more efficient. USG-sponsored training 
programs can help impart more basic skills and operating 
knowledge to that end. 


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