HEADLINES:

Council of Representatives begins legislative session with budget looming

Council of Representatives (File Photo)
2019-09-14

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SULAIMANI — The Council of Representatives gathered on Saturday (September 14) for the first meeting of the autumn legislative session with a long list of tasks ahead of it, most importantly drafting the federal budget for 2020.

Before going into depth on longer-term issues, the parliament first addressed the stampede in Karbala on September 10, which occurred during an Ashura procession and resulted in the deaths of at least 31 people.

Speaker Mohammed Halbusi said that the government would investigate the cause of the incident and lawmakers voted to adopt a resolution calling for the families of those who died to be compensated.

Substantively, the session focused on the formation of a committee to look into measures to preserve Iraqi sovereignty, which will include representatives from the heads of the political blocs, as well as the foreign relations, security, defense, and legal committees.

Currently the government is working to prevent Iraq from again becoming a battleground as a result of regional tensions. Baghdad has close relationships with both Washington and Tehran.

The focus on sovereignty is also likely a consequence of allegations that Israel has been violating Iraqi airspace to attack bases belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), although explosions at the bases have officially been explained as accidents.

Moreover, Iraqi territorial integrity is routinely violated by Turkey in its efforts to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whether that be in the form of Turkish troops within the Kurdistan Region or cross-border bombings.

The Council of Representatives also voted to form a committee to follow up on the government plans to enable the return of displaced persons to their places of origin. The committee will also review the government’s actions to follow up on the cases of those who have gone missing since 2003, either as a part of conflict, displacement, or force disappearances.

However, as the legislative session gets closer to year’s end, it is expected that most of parliament’s efforts will go towards drafting and passing the 2020 federal budget law.

Always a contentious exercise, this year’s budget process is expected to be no easier, especially given that the Kurdistan Regional Government failed to live up to its obligations outlined in last year’s law. Frustration among some federal lawmakers over Erbil’s refusal to send 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day to Baghdad has increased over the summer. Conversely, Kurdish MPs will work hard to protect the Region’s budget share.

Halbusi also said that legislation would also be offered on a range of issues during the coming session, including the abolition of the offices of general inspectors and revisions to the Integrity Law, the Civil Service Law, and the Health Insurance Law.

(NRT Digital Media)