Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi has denied that his recent meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa was to ask the latter to intervene to solve the Iraqi crisis pertaining to the formation of a government. He stressed that the economic aspect occupied the largest part of his meetings in Cairo.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat following his visit to Egypt, Abdel Mahdi added, “We did not carry with us any requests for intervention to solve the Iraqi crisis and the issue was not raised in this fashion at all. But we reviewed the current Iraqi situation and discussed the question of speeding up the formation of the government. Musa affirmed in the meeting that he is impartial to any party and any parliamentary decision to choose the next government.” During his visit to Egypt, Abdel Mahdi met with Amr Musa as well as with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Ahmad Nazif, and several Egyptian ministers.
Abdel Mahdi affirmed, “The Arab League is very active in the Iraqi arena today. I think that the solid position of the Arab League and the Arab heads of state in insisting that the next Arab summit should be held in Baghdad and the Arab League’s invitation to the Arab states to go to Iraq and open their embassies strengthen this feeling. I personally listened to a detailed report by Dr. Qays al-Azzawi, Iraq’s representative at the Arab League. It was an extremely positive review affirming that all the Arab states are showing greater understanding and cooperation with Iraq.”
Asked whether there is “Arab reservation” about a specific party forming the next Iraqi government, the Iraqi vice president said, “I have not heard any reservation by any party. They may have a reservation, but I have not heard it about any Iraqi party forming the next government.”
Regarding his meeting with the Egyptian prime minister, Abdel Mahdi said, “We talked about the political situation, particularly as everyone is awaiting the formation of the government. I believe that the formation of a government is important, but things must not stop at this point. Many institutions, such as the governorates, the Kurdistan Region, the investment authority, and others are continuing to function. Their situation is not affected by the formation or non-formation of a government. Therefore, not everything depends on the formation of a government. It is true that this is an important matter, but it is possible for many activities to continue.”
Abdel Mahdi denied that proposals had been offered to solve the Iraqi crisis and said, “This is an internal affair, and non-Iraqis are not involved in it. I do not think that any specific side can offer a solution, particularly theoretical. The solution is in Baghdad and Iraq, and is achieved between the political forces. I think that there will be a solution, as usual. Yes, there are different views and contests, but this is part of democracy and public liberties. Only dictatorship can resolve matters by a unilateral or individual decision. Democracy is competition and challenge, and ultimately, there will be a solution.”
Asked what is taking place in the current political debates behind the scenes, Abdel Mahdi, a prominent leader in the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council headed by Ammar al-Hakim and the one nominated by him to head the government, said, “If you mean what is taking place between the State of Law Coalition (led by outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki) and the National Coalition (led by Al-Hakim), there are joint committees and common views between them. There are agreements and disagreements between the two. There is clear disagreement about the premiership post. The National Coalition opposes the State of Law nominee and the State of Law Coalition definitely opposes the National Coalition nominees. This is part of the problem.”
Regarding the possibility of referring the matter to the parliament to vote on the candidates, Abdel Mahdi said, “This is not possible and unconstitutional. The way things are done is for the House of Representatives to elect its speaker and then elect the president of the republic. The president would then ask the candidate of the largest parliamentary bloc to form the government. There will not be many candidates for the parliament to vote on. There will only be one candidate. The political forces must meet and agree on a candidate, either in the form of a round table or in the form of an opinion poll of the blocs.”
Responding to a question about the intervention of the United States or any outside party in support of a specific candidate, he said, “We read in the press that there are prepared solutions and proposals for the division of power, about certain mechanisms, and about the creation of new positions to absorb the candidates. There is such a thing, and the United Nations and Iraq’s partners have occasionally proposed ideas, but only the Iraqi establishment can decide.”
Asked about his chances of forming the new Iraqi government, Abdel Mahdi said, “Formally, I am not a candidate, and for me to become a candidate, the council or the National Coalition must formally and publicly nominate me and not just talk about it.”
Regarding how long the current Iraqi government, whose term has expired, can stay in power, Abdel Mahdi said, “The government now is a caretaker government. It has submitted a memorandum in this respect to the House of Representatives and the federal court. The officials, the ministers, and the deputy prime ministers should have taken the constitutional oath, as happened in the Ibrahim al-Jaafari government, under the same constitution. The government then announced that it is a caretaker government, and all its members took the constitutional oath. The government remained in power for 41 days until a new government was formed.” He added, “I feel that the Prime Minister (Al-Maliki), whose term has expired, is currently looking for legal umbrellas to extend the term of his government. This is inappropriate, and such an effort will not allow an easy rotation of power. It will not create political traditions for the peaceful rotation of power, will not give full meaning to elections, give full meaning to the institutions, and give full meaning to the Constitution.”
Asked why the government has not provided complete budget accounts since 2005, Abdel Mahdi said, “As far as I know, the accounts up to 2008 have been completed and should be submitted to the parliament. The departure of the government does not exempt it from submitting its final accounts. A minister can resign, but his ministry submits the accounts and not the minister. Therefore, these accounts must be submitted. This is an important condition. It makes no difference whether the government stays or changes.” He added, “The Fairness Committee is studying the matter, and if violations were discovered, officials will be brought to account. If an official leaves his position, this does not mean that he will not be brought to account–on the contrary; he would lose some immunities and face stronger accountability.”