BAGHDAD (AFP) – Civil society groups said on Friday they are to launch a legal battle for Iraqi MPs left idle since a March 7 poll to return 40 million dollars received in salaries and allowances over the past eight months.
“The Iraqi Civil Initiative to Protect the Constitution has decided to appeal to the supreme court for the return of remunerations received by parliament members since the election,” a coalition of 12 groups said.
The groups, in a statement, said they would organise a demonstration on Saturday in central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square “to protest against the repeated violations of the constitution despite a supreme court decision.”
The general election ended in deadlock after none of the main parties won enough of the 325 seats in parliament to form a majority government. Iraq has since been left without a new administration.
Parliament itself has remained in hiatus, except for a 20-minute oath-taking ceremony and another brief meeting at which acting speaker Fuad Massum declared an indefinite “open” session.
Since the election results were certified in June, every deputy has been receiving a salary and allowance for 30 security guards of 22.5 million dinars (19,070 dollars) per month.
In addition, about 200 deputies living outside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where parliament and government institutions are housed, receive another allowance of three million dinars (2,550 dollars) a month.
Moreover, all MPs are entitled to a 90-million-dinar (76,000-dollar) allowance for a car, which by law must be ratified once parliament convenes, costing the state a total of about 25 million dollars.
The parliament is a huge financial burden on the state because all ex-MPs since 2003 are entitled to 80 percent of their salaries and a monthly allowance of 6,350 dollars for 10 security guards for the rest of their lives.
“All of the oil income is going into the parliament,” one MP joked.
On October 24, Iraq’s supreme court ordered parliament to resume work, after the same alliance of civil society groups launched a legal case against Massum, accusing him of violating the constitution by leaving the session open.
“Any delay is anti-constitutional,” the court said.
As a result, MPs are scheduled to convene on Monday to elect a speaker and two deputies, the first step toward forming a new government.
But with about 50 MPs on pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca, western Saudi Arabia, and other political groups unwilling to attend, it is unlikely to reach a quorum.
The constitution stipulates that a speaker, president and prime minister must be elected in that order.
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc of former premier Iyad Allawi narrowly won the election with 91 seats, closely followed by the State of Law Alliance of a fellow Shiite, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, with 89.
Neither has been able to muster a majority, despite back-door negotiations with various Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs which also picked up seats.
The August 16 complaint to the supreme court against Massum was the first of its kind since former dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted in the 2003 US-led invasion.