Iraq’s election law finally passed after protests; Sadrists hold primary

At last the Iraqi parliament has passed a new election law. Aljazeera reports:

The election law provides for an open candidate list, allowing voters to cast their ballot for an individual rather than a party. It also sets aside five seats in parliament for minorities.

Of course, that voters cast their ballot for an individual candidate does not settle the matter of whether it is an open list or a flexible list. The further bit of information needed is whether preference votes (i.e. those cast for candidates within lists) are the sole determinant of who is elected from the list, and in what order. If they are, the list is “open.” If, on the other hand, there is a default list order, provided by the party, that prevails except in the case of some candidates obtaining some quota of preference votes, then the list is “flexible.”

The delays over passage of the law also centered around the Kirkuk dispute.

MPs voted into law the Kurdish proposal that current lists [of eligible voters] be used in next year’s polls and that Kirkuk be kept as one electoral constituency.

A number of Arab and Turkmen politicians, who wanted the 2004 or 2005 records to be used and Kirkuk to be split into two constituencies, boycotted Sunday’s vote.

It is not clear to me what the substance of this dispute over electoral-district lines is, given that the “constituencies” in question here are multi-seat districts with proportional representation (and, unless it has been changed since last time, nationwide proportional compensation). Apparently the electoral districts issue is taken as symbolic of how the eventual status of Kirkuk will be resolved with respect to the its inclusion or not within the Kurdistan federal unit.

The dispute over list type became rather passionate. There were even mass protests over the list type, AFP reported.

Earlier in October, protests were organized in response to:

a call by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani for MPs to adopt an open process for the parliamentary elections in January.

In central Baghdad, several hundred protesters gathered at Firdos Square, carrying Iraqi flags and placards reading “Closed Lists Strengthen Sectarianism and Racism” and in support of Sistani’s stance.

(The idea of people actually taking to the streets over list type warms the heart of this scholar of the “intra-party dimension of representation”!)

Meanwhile CSM reported that one of the Shiite parties held a primary:

On Friday [16 October], supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr voted directly for candidates in a primary poll ahead of national elections, calling it a milestone in the democratic process. The vote is believed by Iraqi officials to be the first time that choosing candidates for any party outside Iraqi Kurdistan has been placed in the hands of ordinary Iraqis. […]

Inside the main Sadr office in Sadr City, hundreds of men and a few women lined up to cast their ballots. Lists posted behind the ballot boxes displayed numbers and names of the 301 men and 25 women who were running.

Voters dipped their index fingers in a jar of purple ink before putting their balance in a transparent box. Officials from Iraq’s Higher Electoral Commission helped organize the vote. Reflecting Sadr’s appeal to disaffected young people, the voting age was set at 15 – three years younger than the required age for participation in national elections. […]

Candidates were not required to be members of the Sadr Party but had to be at least 35 years old, college educated, and never have worked with the Americans.

It is, however, not a primary to select the entire list for Sadr’s party: “Sadr himself will choose which of the existing members of parliament should run for reelection, with the remainder of the candidates selected in the voting on Friday, says a Sadr official.”

It remains unclear whether the general election can be held on the scheduled date of 16 January, or will have to be delayed.

2 thoughts on “Iraq’s election law finally passed after protests; Sadrists hold primary

  1. I have read the new electoral law. There is no explicit quota of preference votes, but there is a default order. The voter has the option to cast a preference vote.

  2. How can there be a default list order without a quota of preference votes needed to “disturb” the default?

    Whether a preference vote is optional or mandatory is a separate dimension from how preference votes enter in to the final determination of order of election.

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