Top Iraq politicians demand greater democracy

AFP , Saturday 28 Apr 2012

Iraqi leaders urge Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to enhance the democratic process to find a solution to the month-long political crisis involving various politicians and parties

Top Iraqi politicians, many of whom feel marginalised by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's style of governing, called on Saturday in Arbil for greater democracy in running the country.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Massud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, Iyad Allawi, the head of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, and Sunni parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, held a meeting in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

Maliki has been accused by various sides, including Barzani, Iraqiya and Sadr, of consolidating power and moving towards dictatorship in Iraq.

The Iraqi leaders called "to put in place mechanisms that can solve the instability, and for ways to enhance the democratic process and activate the democratic mechanisms in managing the country's affairs and preventing dangers that are targeting" democracy, a statement on the meeting said.

The leaders also discussed "the necessity of looking into solutions to end the (political) crisis, the continuation of which has become a danger to the higher national interests," said the statement which was read by Fuad Hussein, head of the office of the presidency in Kurdistan.

Solutions should be "in accordance with the Arbil agreement, what Moqtada al-Sadr said in his statement, and the constitutional bases that define decision-making and policies," it said, referring to a power-sharing deal on the formation of the current government, and points made by Sadr on Thursday.

On Thursday, Sadr pointed out "minorities are an important part of Iraq, and we have to bring them to participate in building Iraq, politically, economically and in security."

He called for "cancelling the policy of neglect and marginalisation", adding that priority must be given to "Iraqi interests over sectarian and ethnic and party interests."

The Saturday's meeting, held in the office of Talabani's party, insisted on serving the people, providing essential services as soon as possible and to meet the urgent demands of the people, the statement added.

Iraq has been hit by a series of political crises since December involving various politicians and parties, centred around accusations that Maliki is concentrating power in his hands and may be moving towards dictatorship.

The Iraqiya bloc began a boycott of parliament and then the cabinet in December, though they were lifted in January and February, respectively.

Maliki, meanwhile, sought to sack Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, an Iraqiya member who has labelled the premier as "worse than Saddam Hussein."

Maliki's government has also issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi for allegedly running a death squad.

Hashemi fled to Kurdistan, which declined to hand him over to Baghdad and then permitted him to leave on a regional tour that took him to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Kurdistan chief Barzani has also launched a series of attacks against Maliki, including charging him of moving towards dictatorship, and that he aimed to "kill the democratic process" after the head of Iraq's electoral commission was arrested for alleged corruption.

Barzani has also opposed the sale of American-made F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Maliki is in power, fearing they would be used against Kurdistan.

Kurdistan, meanwhile, has stopped oil exports of more than $1.5 billion it said is owed to foreign oil companies working in the region, that Baghdad has allegedly withheld.

Sadr, who presented himself as a mediator in the Barzani-Maliki crisis when he arrived in Arbil on Thursday, has himself been critical of the Iraqi premier.

A few days after the April 12 arrest of election commission, Faraj al-Haidari, Sadr said Maliki "is working on postponing or cancelling the elections."

He further said that "the arrest of Haidari should be under the law and not under the power of dictatorship."

Sadr had earlier attacked Maliki as a "dictator" hungry for acclaim.

Short link: