Abolishing the Sectarian Quotas in Iraq

  • 7 January 2010

Recent statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on sectarian quotas are highly important, both in terms of their message and timing. He stressed on the need for amending Iraqi constitution for the abolition of the quota system and for putting an end to distinctions among citizens based on partisan, sectarian, religious and ethnic affiliations.

These statements precede general elections to be held in the country in March. Everyone hopes these elections would promote a nationalist outlook above ethnic and sectarian strife, which raised its head in the last provincial elections, and which follow a major debate on electoral law that led to differences among political forces on sectarian grounds.  This suggests that Iraqi arena is still in the midst of a conflict between nationalistic and sectarian orientation and is split over the constitutional bond of citizenship which rises above secondary affiliations, and confirms equality of all Iraqi citizens before law—both in terms of rights or duties—regardless of any ethnic or sectarian affiliations, so that all forces and communities feel secure and their ethnic, religion and sectarian affiliations recede.

There is an agreement among different political parties in Iraq on the importance of amending the constitution, which was clear from the establishment of a committee from the Council of Representatives years ago for such a purpose, but differences among parties represented in this Committee have hindered the work. Therefore it is necessary that these differences are overcome for making necessary amendments to the constitution and for bringing them to light so that whatever differences exist among its members could be resolved, whereby all parties find a middle ground. Perhaps, profound differences that had risen regarding the electoral law have finally been resolved, and have sent out an important lesson, that whenever there is a will for forging an agreement then even the most complex problem and dispute can be settled.

It is clear that there is a growing awareness about the gravity of the issue related to sectarian quotas and the domination of sectarian and ethnic tendencies in the field of politics, which was evident from the results of the recent provisional elections, and is confirmed by the nature of political alliances forged for the coming general elections in March 2010, in addition to aforementioned statements made by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, which were not the first of their kind in this regard.
There is no doubt that closing the page on sectarian quota would enable Iraq to enter a new phase of stability and security at various levels, and would allow its political experience to develop naturally and achieve its goals. Again, it would give meaning to coexistence, citizenship and one nation, and thereby shuts the door on any attempt to provoke conflict and civil strife among Iraqis. Quotas were part of Iraqi history after the year 2003, and this stage should end. Undoubtedly, the choices made by Iraqis in coming elections will be crucial in this respect.