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Publication Date

1-4-2017

Abstract

In the summer of 2015, Iraqi citizens took to the streets in protest. After going without essential services, such as electricity, in the sweltering heat and after enduring corruption that undermined Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State, these citizens called for meaningful changes in the management of the Iraqi government and for the fulfillment of “democratic aspirations” enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution. In response to these protests, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, proposed sweeping reform measures to combat the decisive divides in the current administration. These reforms called for drastic change—including the elimination of the vice-president and deputy prime minister positions, the removal of a large percentage of cabinet members, and the cessation of sectarian and party quotas for state positions.

After his reform package received unanimous approval from the Iraqi Parliament and from the Grand Ayatollah, Ali Al-Sistani, Abadi took immediate action to remove the vice presidents and deputy prime ministers from office. However, after the current vice-presidents brought challenges to the reforms, the Supreme Court of Iraq ruled that the removal of these positions was unconstitutional. The Parliament, therefore, withdrew its support for the package and accused Abadi of overstepping his authority.

Outside the government, the Islamic State still controls large swaths of land, including, for the time being, twenty-five percent of the city of Ramadi—the provincial capital of Anbar, and Iraqi forces have only been able to claim back roughly six percent of government territory in the pastyear. Moreover, there is evidence that the Kurdish Government may be taking advantage of the war with the Islamic State to grab land and disputed oil resources, refueling the “long-running land dispute that has pitted Iraqi Kurdistan against the central government in Baghdad.” Additionally, Iraq is still facing an outbreak of cholera that has infected over 2,000 people.

These internal and external factors paint an unattractive picture of the situation in Iraq, but combined, they might indicate a window of opportunity. After examining the current state of affairs in Iraq, this paper argues that there is a potential opening for constitutional reform. I contend that this potential opportunity should be taken advantage of with specific and narrowly tailored amendments to the Iraqi Constitution that limit the power of the executive branch. In Part One, I will provide a broad overview of the situation in Iraq, including the attitudes of government officials, the desires and needs of Iraqi citizens, and the significant internal and external factors pressing on top decision makers, culminating in a potential opportunity for constitutional reform. I argue that the internal and external factors—such as the severe security threat from the Islamic State, the economic crises, and recent actions taken by the Prime Minister—can be figuratively plotted out as exogenous shocks rising to a peak today whereby the opportunity for constitutional reform is potentially ripe. In Part Two, I will discuss the possible adjustments to the Constitution that could be introduced. I incorporate commentary from leading academics in this arena on why changes to the executive should be pushed. In short, this paper should be seen as a snapshot on the present situation in Iraq and as a brief source that can be used for further, more extensive, research on the current prospect of constitutional reform.