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Iraq high court rules delay in government formation unconstitutional

The Iraqi Supreme Court ruled Sunday that the seven-month delay in forming a government following the March parliamentary elections [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive] was unconstitutional, ordering parliament to reconvene. The lawsuit was filed by an independent group [WP report] after the parliament failed to elect a parliamentary speaker during a brief session in June. The parliament failed to formally close the session in an attempt to circumvent constitutional constraints in forming the new government. Under the Iraqi Constitution [text, PDF], the speaker is responsible for electing a president, who then asks the largest political bloc to form the government. The delay can be attributed in part to the close results of the March elections. The secular Iraqiya alliance, led by Iyad Allawi [Al Jazeera profile], holds a slim two-seat lead over the Shiite State of Law [party website] coalition of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile]. Acting Speaker Fouad Massoum said Sunday that he would abide by the ruling [AP report] and expects to announce the date of the next session by the end of the week.

In August, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for Iraq's political leaders to work together [JURIST report] "with a higher sense of urgency" to form a new government, warning that further delays could create more instability. Ban expressed the concern that the delay could lead to a "growing sense of uncertainty in the country" and prevent the parliament from addressing pressing domestic issues, including Arab-Kurdish disputed areas revenue-sharing, the adoption of legislation related to hydrocarbons, relations among the federal and regional governments, the constitutional review process and the strengthening of institutions of governance and the rule of law. In June, the Supreme Court ratified the final results [JURIST report] of the elections, officially confirming the narrow victory for the secular Iraqiya alliance. Allawi hopes Iraqiya's victory will be a turning point for bipartisan participation among the religious sects, but his goal of unification may be thwarted, as Maliki's bloc has already announced an alliance with the Shia Iraqi National Alliance, which polled third, to form the largest grouping in parliament.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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