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Critics alarmed as Iraq's Maliki centralises power

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Critics alarmed as Iraq's Maliki centralises power

Post  Shilo on Sun Jan 23, 2011 5:50 pm

Critics alarmed as Iraq's Maliki centralises power
Sun Jan 23, 2011

* Central bank among institutions affected

* Critics denounce 'coup against constitution'

* Government says bodies were hijacked by agendas

BAGHDAD, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has won a court ruling placing independent bodies like the central bank and the electoral agency under the cabinet, a centralisation of power that critics are calling a "coup".

Maliki's government made the request to the supreme court in December before he was reappointed later that month to a second term, and the court ruling in his favour came through last Tuesday, generating little controversy at first.

The independent agencies affected are supposed to be monitored by parliament according to the constitution, hastily drawn up in the chaotic aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Maliki argued that where the language describing parliament's monitoring powers over the agencies was ambiguous, the bodies should be attached to the cabinet. The court agreed.

The main agencies affected are the Central Bank of Iraq, the Independent Higher Electoral Commission, anti-corruption watchdog the Integrity Commission and the High Commission for Human Rights.

"The court views that the term 'monitoring by' is not clear enough to place these under parliament's authority, therefore they should be attached to the cabinet," the ruling said.

The decision alarmed critics who view with suspicion glimpses of authoritarian leanings in some of Maliki's actions.

The democracy bestowed on Iraq by U.S. administrators after Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted is fragile and unique in a region accustomed to strongmen and presidents for life. Its future is murky as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw this year.

"We consider the request of Nuri al-Maliki to the court to be a coup against the constitution that puts Iraq's democracy on the line," said Haider al-Mulla, a member of parliament and spokesman for the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc

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