The Provisional Constitution of July 16, 1970, upon which Iraq's
governmental system was based in 1988, proclaims Iraq to be "a
sovereign people's democratic republic" dedicated to the ultimate
realization of a single Arab state and to the establishment of
a socialist system. Islam is declared to be the state religion,
but freedom of religion and of religious practices is guaranteed.
Iraq is said to be formed of two principal nationalities, Arab
and Kurd. A March 1974 amendment to the Constitution provides
for autonomy for the Kurds in the region where they constitute
a majority of the population. In this Autonomous Region (see Glossary)
both Arabic and Kurdish are designated as official languages for
administrative and educational purposes. The Constitution also
prescribes, however, that the "national rights" of the Kurds as
well as the "legitimate rights" of all minorities are to be exercised
only within the framework of Iraqi unity, and the document stipulates
that no part of Iraq can be relinquished.
The Constitution sets forth two basic aims, the establishment
of a socialist system based on "scientific and revolutionary principles,"
and pan-Arab economic unity. The state is given an active role
in "planning, directing, and guiding" the economy. National resources
and the principal means of production are defined as "the property
of the people" to be exploited by the state "directly in accordance
with the requirements of the general planning of the national
economy." The Constitution describes public properties and the
properties of the public sector as inviolable.
The Constitution classifies the ownership of property as "a social
function that shall be exercised within the limits of society's
aims and the state's programs in accordance with the provisions
of the law"; nevertheless, the Constitution also guarantees private
ownership and individual economic freedom "within the limits of
the law, provided that individual ownership will not contradict
or be detrimental to general economic planning." The Constitution
stipulates that private property may not be expropriated except
for the public interest and then only with just compensation.
The size of private agricultural land holdings is to be defined
by law, and the excess is to be regarded as the property of the
people. The Constitution also bars foreign ownership of real estate,
although individuals may be granted a legal exemption from this
Articles 19 through 36 of the Constitution spell out fundamental
rights and duties in detail. The right to fair trial through due
process, the inviolability of person and of residence, the privacy
of correspondence, and the freedom to travel are guaranteed to
all citizens. The Constitution also assures citizens of their
right to religious freedom; to the freedom of speech, of publication,
and of assembly; and to the freedom to form political parties,
trade unions, and professional societies. The Constitution directs
the state to eliminate illiteracy and to ensure the right of citizens
to free education from elementary school through the university
level. According to Article 28, the aims of education include
instilling opposition to "the doctrines of capitalism, exploitation,
reaction, Zionism, and colonialism" in order to ensure the achievement
of the Baathist goals of Arab unity, freedom, and socialism. The
Constitution also requires the state to provide every citizen
with employment and with free medical care.
The Constitution defines the powers and the functions of the
different government institutions. These include the RCC, the
National Assembly, the presidency, the Council of Ministers, or
cabinet, and the judiciary . According to Article 37, the RCC
"is the supreme body in the State." Article 43 assigns to the
RCC, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, authority to promulgate
laws and regulations, to deal with national security, to declare
war and conclude peace, and to approve the government's budget.
Article 38 stipulates that all newly elected members of the RCC
must be members of the Baath Party Regional Command. The Constitution
also provides for an appointed Council of Ministers that has responsibility
for carrying out the executive decisions of the RCC.
The chief executive of the RCC is the president, who serves as
the commander in chief of the armed forces and as the head of
both the government and the state. The powers of the president,
according to the Constitution, include appointing, promoting,
and dismissing personnel of the judiciary, civil service, and
military. The president also has responsibility for preparing
and approving the budget. The first president, Ahmad Hasan al
Bakr, was in office from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned and was
succeeded by Saddam Husayn.
Articles 47 through 56 of the Constitution provide for an elected
National Assembly, but its powers are to be defined by the RCC.
Elections for the Assembly took place for the first time in June
1980. Subsequent National assembly elections were held in October
The Constitution can be amended only by a two-thirds majority
vote of the RCC. Although the 1970 Constitution is officially
designated as provisional, it is to remain in force until a permanent
constitution is promulgated.
Data as of May 1988