Further proof today that things are going great in Iraq—the New York Times reports that on Monday, the parliament was actually able to conduct business because, for the first time since November, enough people showed up to vote on things. The report said that almost every session since then has simply been adjourned because as few as 65 of the 275 members could or would show up for work. Monday was a big day, then, because “attendance actually surpassed the 50 percent plus one needed to pass laws.”
And that was because our buddy Moktada al-Sadr let his group show up. The 30 members in that bunch returned from a months-long boycott, during which they were probably all taking glaring lessons from Moktada, and the news that they would be returning “created a public relations blitz” that ended up getting 189 of the 275 members to attend. Whether the quorum would last long enough to get any work done was anybody’s guess.
Many members do not even live in Iraq anymore, including Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister. London is looking a lot better to him right now. Another member, Adnan Pachachi, phoned in from Abu Dhabi to tell the Times that he had left to get some decent medical care for his wife. He hoped to return in a few weeks. To serve in Parliament, he admitted, “[o]ne has to be there.”
Although members earn the equivalent of about $120,000, which is an awful lot of dinars these days, many still claimed that they were unable to make ends meet. Pachachi, for example, said he can only afford 20 of the 40 guards he has to hire to protect him when he does come to Iraq. (Good thing all the members don’t show up, I guess, or else there wouldn’t be any place for the guards to sit.)
The current speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashadani, sympathized with the security concern. He said Parliament should set aside more money for members’ security, and that he thought members should come back to Iraq to vote for that. He also argued that attendance would be improved by new bills that provide for fines and possible replacement of members who do not attend. The bills that would help ensure a quorum could be passed as soon as there is a quorum to pass them.