Iraq election-law deal

(Updated, 8 Dec. and again on 9 Dec.)

Reuters India reports:

a last-minute deal between parliamentarians on Sunday night, 10 minutes before the expiry of a deadline for [Sunni member of Presidency Council] Hashemi to cast a second veto, rescued the election law and set the ballot back on track.

The agreement restored some seats to Sunni areas and also placated Kurdish complaints by giving their semi-autonomous northern provinces a handful more seats.

Where do those seats come from? Part of the deal is for a 325-seat parliament, rather than 275 (reported in Washington Post).

A BBC Arabic item from 7 Dec. (dubbed into English via Mosaic) provided some further detail. Of the 325 seats, 310 will be elected from the governatorates (provinces), serving as electoral districts. Forty one of these seats are assigned to the Kurdish districts (their parties had demanded 50). Of the 15 national-tier seats, 5 are set aside for Christians and 3 for other minorities (including the Yazidi). The other 7 were unspecified in the BBC report; the original controversy that triggered the veto was partly over the number of seats for Iraqis abroad. At that time, there were going to be 8 such seats (out of 275), so this deal would seem to be worse on that dimension. However, there are more seats in the Sunni-majority districts, which seems to have been the real issue all along.*

The Reuters India item reported that the election date would likely to be 27 February, rather than January as previously planned. However, BBC Radio is reporting today (8 Dec.) that it will be some time in early March.

Click “Iraq” in the “planted in” line for some discussion of the previous bills and the veto.

* Updates: Reidar Visser states that Iraqis abroad will vote in their home governorate (district). In that case, they do not need a special national constituency, as contemplated in the earlier draft. This is a much saner solution. He also notes that it is not actually clear what the finally agreed assembly size is. District magnitudes would range from about 6 to 72.

12 thoughts on “Iraq election-law deal

  1. Surely complete details can be found in a less-obscure site than the boycotting Worker-communist Party of Iraq.

    “this election will be by “open lists”, with candidates named and an option for voters to choose between individuals as well as lists. . .
    There will be “top-up” seats for parties deemed to be under-represented on the basis of their cross-Iraq vote, and a few reserved seats for minorities.”


  2. It’s open-list, but you can vote for a party alone; or for a party and a candidate of that party.

    And the party’s seats are awarded by pure open-list, not flexible list. Just as in Brazil. Except that the 25% women’s quota may bump some women up the results.

    Remarkably, the seven national compensatory seats are NOT compensatory: they only echo the governorate seats. They are filled by the best runner-up: the one who got the highest percent of the party’s votes in the governates.


  3. Curiously, an Al-Jazeera Blog thinks PR means closed-list: “an amendment to the election laws last year removes the concept of proportional representation. In the past it was the parties that would nominate candidates to parliament in accordance with the percentage of vote received, now the individual voter has the opportunity to select the candidate and coalition of choice.

    The clear consequence is a greater sense of ownership of the process- and a reduction in the potential for corrupt practices within parties and coalitions.”


  4. If this model brings Brazilian politics to Iraq, I should add a footnote to the above optimistic quote “a reduction in the potential for corrupt practices within parties and coalitions.” But after the election, when MPs owe little to their parties, it may result in an epidemic of party-hopping seldom seen outside Brazil or India, especially when several of the “parties” are themselves loose coalitions. Will all the party hoppers be entirely altruistic?


  5. I’m curious about the representatives for Iraqis living abroad. Is this something other countries to follow? Should US states have special representatives in their legislatures for residents of their states living out of state, or would the loose US residency laws make this ridiculous ?


  6. The Democrats’ convention has an electorate (not sure “district” is quite the right word) for Democrats Abroad, electing seven delegates in 2008. I believe Professor Ronald Dworkin is/was involved while at Oxford.


  7. Separate representation for citizens living abroad has become increasingly common in Europe. Portugal has had it for a long time, as has the French Senate (indirectly chosen). In the last few years Italy and Romania have followed, as will the French National Assembly in 2012.

    I think it makes sense to have a separate voice in Parliament if a nation has an uncommonly large emigrant community that is still tied to home, such as Cape Verde, much of Central/Eastern Europe, perhaps Mexico, etc. But otherwise I prefer the much more common Iraqi model, with votes from abroad being added to respective former home districts.

    The biggest problem with separate overseas representation is that it is difficult to estimate participation. Usually, registration is lax, turnout is low, and thus the votes per seat ratio is far lower than in the regular constituencies. Though, the opposite is also possible. One solution could be to have a small number of initial seats (districted or not) to which PR seats would be added depending on comparative turnout.


  8. The 2009 NZ election saw parties sending reps to Australia to find eligible voters (must be NZ citizen and have visited NZ in previous 3 years). Special focus on Maori voters, who are eligable to enrol in the Maori electorates, which have low turnouts.


  9. > “otherwise I prefer the much more common Iraqi model, with votes from abroad being added to respective former home districts.”

    One could lay down that the overseas/ diaspora voters get 1 rep per whole [quotient] of their numbers or for any remainder over (say) 0.2 of a quotient. If their numbers fall below than one-fifth of a quotient, the Overseas Electorate/ Constituency is temporarily deactivated and the individual voters re-assigned to their last home address in the Motherland. (Perhaps this needs a savings clause that existing districts can’t be invalidated as over the population maximum as a result – there is a risk, although by definition the number of re-assigned disapora voters would be small overall and likely tiny in any one district).


  10. Or, for New Zealand, the expat voters would substitute voting for the regular national list with voting for an “international” list. The latter would be awarded a proportional amount of list seats within each party, perhaps even by the very favourable Tom Round method, and would be last affected by deductions of electorate seats.


  11. While there are a noticable chunk of eligible NZ voters overseas (those that have emigrated to Australia and have visited NZ within 3 years, those in Europe/North America on their ‘Overseas Experience’), I don’t see why they should have any special consideration. Unlike some other countries, they aren’t sending significant amounts of money back to NZ, for instance.


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