BAGHDAD – Iraq’s highest court on Sunday ordered parliament back to work after a seven-month virtual recess, intensifying pressure to break the political stalemate that has held up formation of a new government.
The 325 lawmakers have met only once since they were elected on March 7 – for a session that lasted 20 minutes and consisted of a reading from the Quran, the playing of the national anthem and swearing in new members.
Under the constitution, parliament was required to meet within 15 days of final court approval of election results, which came on June 1. Lawmakers met on June 14 and should have chosen a parliament speaker during their first session and then the president within 30 days. But these appointments had to be put off because they are part of the negotiations between major political blocs over the rest of the new leadership – including a prime minister and top Cabinet officials.
After the June meeting, lawmakers agreed to leave the parliament session open but unattended – a technicality to allow more time to choose a new leadership and to put off choosing a new speaker or president.
But the Supreme Court deemed that decision “illegal” in its ruling on Sunday.
“The federal Supreme Court decided to cancel this decision, binding the parliament speaker to call on lawmakers to convene parliament and resume work,” the ruling said. The delay “violated the constitution,” it added.
Sunday’s court order settles a lawsuit brought by independent watchdog groups against parliament’s acting speaker, Fouad Massoum. In a brief interview Sunday, Massoum said he had not yet seen the order but has no choice but to abide by the court’s demands.
He told the Associated Press he expects to set a date for a meeting by the end of the week, though it was not clear when the meeting would take place. Lawmakers, however, said they would not be able to accomplish much if they reconvened before political parties agree on a ruling coalition and choose a prime minister.