Iraq’s parliament failed to reconvene as scheduled Tuesday because so few members showed up after the month’s recess.
Only about a dozen of the 275 members of parliament appeared at the Green Zone parliament building. Officials said the assembly would not try to meet again until sometime next week.
The legislature has several urgent items to consider including the oil law, constitutional review and changes in regulations that effectively bar many Sunnis from government jobs.
Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and the absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000.
Part of the problem is security, but Iraqi officials also said they feared that members were losing confidence in the institution and in the country’s fragile democracy. As chaos has deepened, Parliament’s relevance has gradually receded.
Some of Iraq’s more seasoned leaders say attendance has been undermined by a widening sense of disillusionment about Parliament’s ability to improve Iraqis’ daily life. The country’s dominant issue, security, is almost exclusively the policy realm of the American military and the office of the prime minister.
The largest group of absentees consisted of unknown figures elected as part of the party lists that governed how most people voted in the December 2005 election. Party leaders in Baghdad said they had urged their members to attend but emphasized that for many, Parliament had become a hardship post.
According to the Times, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Speaker of Parliament, wants to fine and, if necessary, replace absentee parliamentarians. One small problem: he needs a quorum to pass the proposed legislation. Keep this in mind the next time someone tries to cite ‘democracy’ in Iraq as one of the invasion/occupation’s (few) examples of ‘success.’