Rivalry among parties stalls Iraq's controversial food security bill 

Rivalry among parties stalls Iraq's controversial food security bill 
3 min read
30 May, 2022
The Iraqi parliament is unable to pass a draft bill regarding the Emergency Support for Food Security due to a rivalry among the main Shia blocs.
The Iraqi parliament. [Getty]

A stalemate has paralysed the passing of a draft law by the Iraqi Parliament to urgently deal with skyrocketing food prices in Iraq, as pro-Iran Shia lawmakers are at odds with Muqtada al-Sadr's majority bloc over the bill.

On 17 May, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court, the country's supreme judicial authority, ruled against the bill proposed by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, prime minister of the Iraqi caretaker government, saying that according to the country's constitution caretaker governments cannot propose draft laws.

Later on, a number of MPs from al-Sadr's bloc proposed the same bill in an attempt to empower the Iraqi government to spend money and tackle rising food prices as the country struggles to pass a budget law due to the political deadlocks.

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On 26 May, Al-Sadr directed his bloc, and hence the parliament, to pass the draft law in defiance of attempts for undermining the parliament so that "the Iraqi people can utilise directly from the law." For his part, Hakim al-Zamily, deputy speaker of the parliament from the Sadrist bloc, vowed that the draft law will pass.

However, the Coordination Framework, a parliamentary faction consisting of pro-Iran Shia parties, fiercely oppose passing the bill. 

In response, Qais Al-Khazali, secretary-general of pro-Iran Asaib Ahl al-Haq proposed on 29 May several motions to the Iraqi government to deal with the food security issue, describing these steps as "practical".

Al-Khazali's proposal aims replace the plan of buying food by the Iraqi government via the country's food coupon ratio system with using the surplus of income begotten from selling oil to be "directly distributed among Iraqi citizens". He described the food coupon ratio system as "being manipulated by the big whales of corruption".

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Jamal Kocher, an Iraqi lawmaker from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and member of the parliament's finance committee, told The New Arab that there are several main points of contention among the two rival groups on the bill.

"Iraq's Federal Supreme Court previously rejected this bill. The key question now is that if Iraq's caretaker government does not have the power to propose bills to the government, then how does it have the power to give consent on the financial burdens related to this bill," Kocher told The New Arab via WhatsApp messaging.

"Secondly, the amount of money proposed in the bill is too much, about 25 trillion Iraqi dinars (17 to 19 million dollars). The food security might just need five trillion dinars. Thirdly, the parliament cannot question caretaker governments, thus there are suspicions that in implementation it would lead to rampant corruptions," Kocher added. 

He also indicated that the fourth difference is that exceptional powers have been given to Iraq's finance minister to make changes in the law, even after being voted on by the parliament.

Muhammad al-Anuz, head of the legal committee at the Iraqi parliament on Monday ruled out that the Iraq's federal court will reject the bill again. He told Iraq's state television that passing the bill is necessary for "facilitating the daily living of the Iraqis". He also said that it is impossible for Iraq to have a budget law for the current year.