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February 28, 2008
Mixed News From Iraq
First, the good news (we're not the MSM here).
The three man Presidential Council has approved the 2008 budget and an amnesty law passed by Parliament. The budget was especially important because it earmarks funds for the provinces and will help immensely in reconstruction.
The bad news is that the same Council rejected the provincial elections bill:
"No agreement has been reached in the Presidency Council to approve the provincial elections draft law and it has been sent back to the parliament to reconsider the rejected articles," the council said in a statement. It comes down to a question between those who wish a strong federal government in Iraq and those who wish more autonomy for the provinces. I think the arguments for leaving the decision on provincial governors with the local legislatures are probably sound. Of course, I'm a federalist and can see the position of the provinces as being closer to the people than far away Baghdad.
The panel is composed of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi.
The White House said it does not believe the setback for the provincial election law has dealt a fatal blow to the measure. White House press secretary Dana Perino said the Bush administration would have liked the law to move forward without complications, but added: "This is democracy at work."
Abdul-Mahdi is a senior official in the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, the country's largest Shiite party. He objected to the measure and was supported by the Kurds, according to lawmakers who attended the council meeting where the elections law was discussed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The sticking point was control of the provincial governor's offices. A provision in the measure allows the Iraqi prime minister to fire a provincial governor, but Abdul-Mahdi's bloc wants that power to rest with the provincial councils, or legislatures, where his party has a strong base of support around the country, the lawmakers said.
Slowly but steadily, the Iraqis are learning about democracy. And the most important aspect of that learning has to be how to compromise. Imagine living in a society where compromise was always seen as weakness or worse, a death sentence. It will take some time and a considerable amount of courage but I think the Iraqis have a good chance of getting there.