Sunday, 28 August 2011

Iraqi CP: Serious Shortcomings in the Draft Law on Political Parties

Editorial of “Tareeq Al-Shaab”, the daily newspaper of the Iraqi Communist Party
18th August 2011

Serious Shortcomings in the Draft Law on Political Parties 
Require Radical Remedy

The Iraqi parliament, in its session on 1st August 2011, ended the first reading of the draft law on political parties submitted by the government. The draft law, which has been long-awaited, is regarded as a step in the right direction, as well as stipulating a number of proper democratic principles for setting up and financing parties, and including an emphasis on the adoption of the principle of citizenship as the basis for party formation. But the draft law has triggered a lot of controversy on many of its clauses which have contained serious shortcomings. These shortcomings are considered by some politicians and legal experts as a grave violation of the Constitution in the area of ​​freedoms, amounting to a restriction of these freedoms, and an effort to legitimize blatant interference by the executive branch in the affairs of party life and violating their independence.
The parties are a means to develop political life and organize society, and to raise awareness and enable citizens to participate actively in the management of their affairs. Parties reflect the interests and visions of social classes and strata, and, given the multiplicity and diversity of these interests, parties and pluralism are an objective condition of society, and their political expressions should be respected, maintained and organized democratically. There can be no democracy and no parliamentary democracy without political parties, as they constitute one of the pillars of the democratic system.
The absence of a law for political parties in the past, especially since the adoption of the Constitution in 2005, has been a major shortcoming in the political process and the electoral system. The very serious consequences of this were clearly demonstrated in parliamentary elections, the last of which took place in March 2010 and were marred by grave violations and abuses, which included the absence of controls for the financing of parties. The absence of this law, in addition to other well-known factors, has contributed to emptying the electoral process of its democratic content and imposing the hegemony of the ruling forces, and thus consolidating the hated sectarian and ethnic power-sharing as the basis for the ruling system and deepening its crisis, for which our people have suffered and paid dearly.
Obviously, then, our people have been looking forward to the enactment of a law of parties that would be democratic and not restrictive of freedoms. They have looked forward to a law that would be sober, balanced and neutral, rather than being biased in favor of the ruling forces, safeguarding the interests of the ruling groups and guaranteeing the perpetuation of their hegemony, tightening their grip on political power against the will of the people.
The law that people look forward to should also be a catalyst for the formation of parties, instead of creating obstacles and hindering their proper role in ensuring the widest participation of citizens in political life and achieving the people’s legitimate aspirations. According to jurisprudence, the law should have the following features: it should ensure transparency, independence and freedom, justice and equality, with clarity, conciseness and simplicity.
So, do these features and standards exist in the draft law of parties that was approved by the government and submitted to the parliament?
The most serious issue in the draft law is in Article 2/III, and Article 19/II, which stipulate the formation of the so-called "Department of Political Parties", which belongs to the Ministry of Justice and is headed by an official with the position of director-general!
A quick look at the powers entrusted to this department of the Ministry of Justice reveals the extent of blatant interference that the government would practice in the affairs of political parties in the event the draft law is passed in its current form.
The setting up of such a "department" of the Ministry of Justice would enable the executive branch to interfere in party life and violate democratic rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution. It would mean effectively making the government act as a “controller” over parties and their political activity.
Things do not end here. This "department" and its powers are part of a legislative-procedural system that violates the criteria we have mentioned above which are supposed to be present in any democratic law of parties. The "fingerprints" of the government are evident in the articles and clauses of this draft law, in the following fields:
  • Specifying the Administrative Judiciary Court as the body that grants the license for founding parties. It is controlled by the executive power.
  • Broad interference in the internal organization of parties and violation of their rights. Article 32/II constitutes a violation of the principles of freedom and independence. According to the formulations of the law, the rights of parties to decide their own internal systems are usurped by the executive branch. The articles of the draft law, in more than one place, allow the possibility of the executive power withholding the license of a party or suspending its activity.
  • According to the draft law, principles in a party program that are determined to be identical to those of other parties, and cannot be distinguished from them, are considered a reason not to grant it a license (Article 8/II). In the absence of standards and grounds for such distinguishing, this text would be subject to contradictory interpretations.
  • Suspending the activity of any party can be done through a report prepared and submitted by an employee in the "Department of Parties."
We must also draw attention to the excessively punitive nature of the draft law, as evident in the "Penal Provisions" in Chapter 10.
There are also vague and confusing formulations, and others that are open to interpretation, in the draft law.
Article 5/II, which stipulates that a party cannot be founded on the basis of "... sectarian, ethnic or nationalist intolerance," does not explain how this intolerance is interpreted and measured. This article also does not mention religious intolerance.
These concise comments on the draft law of political parties do not address all its shortcomings, but have sought to highlight the most important and most serious, those that constitute a grave violation of the freedoms and democratic rights guaranteed by the Constitution, in order that they are speedily dealt with in a radical manner to ensure the enactment of a democratic law of parties.
In order to achieve this goal, we reaffirm the need for all the forces of our people - and for researchers, specialists and civil society organizations that are concerned about upholding the rights and freedoms of citizens, without discrimination, and establishing the foundations of a modern democratic civil state - to expedite the submission of their views and comments on the draft law of parties, and for the parliament to deal seriously with what is submitted to it, whether by political parties and blocs represented in parliament or from outside the parliament.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Candlelight Vigil in Baghdad on 3rd anniversary of assassination of Kamel Shiaa

Candlelight Vigil in Baghdad on 3rd anniversary 
of assassination of Kamel Shiaa

Two hundred people joined a candlelight vigil held in Kahramana square in central Baghdad, on Tuesday evening 23rd August 2011, to honor the memory of the prominent Iraqi intellectual and communist Kamel Shiaa, who was cowardly assassinated in Baghdad on 23rd August 2008. 

Participants in the vigil, organized by the February Youth Movement, carried posters of Kamel Shiaa and banners calling upon the authorities to declare the results of their investigation into the crime, reveal the identity of the perpetrators and those who planned it, and to bring them to justice. 

The event was attended by many intellectuals, representatives of civil society organizations and media people.