Iraq's 2010 Parliamentary Election — Part 7: Politics Blowing Up Democracy

by Pauline Lejeune // Published April 29, 2010
Iraq Flag in 2

Last time I wrote a post on the Iraqi election, I was explaining why de-baathification should not affect the post-election political balance. However, it seems more and more obvious that political maneuvering is clouding Iraq’s future.
52 candidates, including two of them who won seats for the Iraqiya list, have been retroactively disqualified from the ballot by the judicial commission in charge of de-baathification, and their votes discarded.


The Iraqi electoral system is based on open-lists. In a list system, seats go to parties according to their fair share of the vote, and then are awarded to candidates from the winning lists. In the Iraqi open-list system, Iraqis chose a party, and then had a possibility to choose one candidate from their favorite list, but voting for a candidate was optional. Seats are thus still distributed among the parties first, and then among candidates from those parties with the most popular votes.
This means that the repartition of seats among the candidates from one party should not affect the seat’s distribution among the other parties. This is precisely what the electoral law states: each party should be able to replace blacklisted candidates with its next top-voted candidates.
However, since the votes of the 52 candidates are discarded (both those from winners and losers), the Independent High Electoral Commission considers that the votes received by the parties are also discarded and is willing to recalculate results in all of the affected districts. This could shift around some seats, which is fundamental, since there is only a  two seat difference between the top two winners. But above all, it skews the process of fair representation for political reasons.
In fact, it specifically penalizes voters who fully used the open-list system, whereas if a voter did not choose a candidate, his or her vote would not be cancelled. This is putting at risk the whole idea of democracy in Iraq and stealing votes from Iraqis, without any legal basis.


A few other quick notes about what happened recently:

We’re not likely to have final results of the parliamentary elections for a few weeks, since votes are going to be manually recounted at least in Baghdad, at Maliki’s request. Furthermore, Allawi is about to ask for a new vote, based on the premise that the political post-election de-baathification deliberately targets his party. This is indeed the reason why I have not provided you with an analysis of the results yet: I want to wait until all the results are finally certified.
The Sadrists, who won  39 seats in the 325-seat parliament, hold a referendum to decide who should be the next Iraqi Prime Minister. This initiative deserved to be noticed, even if it has no legal authority and mostly attracted Sadrist backers, because Iraqis were consulted on a national matter. With 24% of the 1.5 million of casted votes, Ibrahim al-Jaafari won the referendum, with Jaafar al-Sadr coming in second with 23%, and could appear as a compromise candidate.

The political situation in Iraq is now getting messy. No judicial decision is very clear, there are obvious legal gaps and political rivalries dominate. However, since an Iraqi court ruled that any party leader could form a new government, as long as he is able to assemble a large enough parliamentary coalition, parties should be working on building an inclusive government, rather than fighting for one or two seats nationwide!

Stay tuned for our next analysis on the Iraqi election!