Friday, November 05, 2010

Monday Parliament may or may not hold a session

"The Iraqi parliament has held exactly one official session since the March 7th elections," Kelly McEvers observed on yesterday's All Things Considered (NPR, link has audio and text). "That session lasted 17 minutes. Since then, politicians can be seen at parliament from time to time, but those are mostly meetings about meetings." The Wichita Falls Times Record News' editorial board offers, "If you're looking for a job with great pay and perks and light duties -- none at all, in fact, since June -- you could do worse than be one of the 325 members of Iraq's parliament." Middle East Online notes the efforts of the Iraqi Civilian Initiative to Protect the Constitution to force the newly elected MPs to return their salaries. Meanwhile Charles McDermid and Nizar Latif (Time magazine) quote MP Aliya Nsayif on this week's violence, "Just a few weeks ago, the government said security was under control, but it doesn't look that way to me. It looks to me and to the public like politicians have abandoned their promises to protect the Iraqi people."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and twenty-nine days and still counting.

Wednesday's snapshot
included: "
Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) notes that Iraq's Parliament is currently set to meet on Monday -- that may or may not take place (court order not withstanding) -- and that it's possilbe a motion could be put forward favoring Nouri. Should that be attempted, it's equally possible that enough members could storm out of the session leaving the Parliament without a quorum." Quorum is in the news today. No, that's not being psychic, it's just paying attention and anyone can do it. Middle East Online informs today, "As a result, MPs are scheduled to convene on Monday to elect a speaker and two deputies, the first step toward forming a government. But with about 50 MPs on pilgrimage to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca, western Saudi Arabi, 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." Again, anyone should have known that it is possible -- especially after the strong arming required repeatedly in the last Parliament to reach a quorum -- that Monday's session may or may not go forward. There's reporting and there's predicting -- they are not the same thing.

Test, when Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) writes this:

Iraq's parliament elects a new speaker on Monday, eight months after an inconclusive election, in a move that could force Sunni forces to join a Shi'ite-Kurd alliance in a national unity government or risk falling apart.

is that reporting? No, it's predicting. Reuters does not know what's going to happen Monday. A new Speaker might be elected. Or Parliament might not reach a quorum. Or an earthquake could strike Baghdad. Or anything in the world can happen. Stating things will happen when they haven't yet is not, is never, reporting.

Alsumaria TV notes, "Al Iraqiya List believes that government formation delay reflects a negative image of Iraq which would seem as politically inapt. A political majority government means that a great component of the Iraqi people has been marginalized, MP Kamel Al Dulaimi said."

This week (see Tuesday's snapshot), Nouri continued his crackdown on the press.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported on the closing of al-Baghdadiya after Iraqi security forces invaded it. Daily News World added that the station director and one other worker was "charged with terror-related offences" for reporting. Nouri's long pattern of attacks on the press and what appears to be at best weak 'evidence' would indicate that the station's biggest 'crime' was broadcasting news of an event that was internationally embarrassing to Nouri. Tuesday Reporters Without Borders issued a statement as did the Committee to Protect Journalists. Today John Leland and Khalid D. Ali (New York Times) report on the closing of the TV station and the most telling bit may be the second paragraph:

Here, the channel has earned a reputation for its feisty news programming, including a morning program that provides an open forum for citizens to criticize the government, including Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Peter Baker (New York Times), Michael Duffy (Time magazine), John Harris (Politico) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "The End of Prognostication: Five Answers from Election Night." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on obesity and the way it's discussed. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations: "Terrorism and Yemen; an excerpt from the "Nature" episode "Braving Iraq," about restoring southern Iraq's marshes; obstructionism in the U.S. Senate. Also: Jon Meacham on the political environment of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's time vs. today." Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

President Obama
President Obama takes questions from Steve Kroft in his first one-on-one interview since his party's midterm election defeat in the House.

Boxing sensation Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao has done it all in the ring, winning world championships in seven different weight divisions. He'll go for an eighth title next week, but will his new job as a Philippine politician hurt his career? Bob Simon reports.

60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio notes, The Diane Rehm Show begins airing at 10:00 a.m. EST on most NPR stations (and streaming online). Her guests for the first hour (domestic news roundtable) are David Corn (Mother Jones), Lisa Lerer (Bloomberg News) and Byron York (Washington Examiner) ; and her guests for the second hour (international) are Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), Anne Gearan (AP) and Thom Shanker (New York Times).

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