Inside the 2010 Iraqi Elections
While the Iraqi constitution had determined January 31 to be the deadline for holding elections, disputes over the 2010 election law have delayed the election date to March 7, 2010.
The Electoral System
Elections will be held under a system of proportional representation, with parliamentary seats apportioned among parties on the basis of the number of votes they receive in each of the provinces into which Iraq is divided. The number of representatives per province is based on population, and in the 2005 elections varied from a low of seven in Maysan and Dahuk to a high of 59 in Baghdad. In 2010, the total number of seats is expected to increase to 325.
Smaller parties or ethnic and confessional minorities often favor proportional representation, which enables them to obtain seats in parliament even when they cannot win a majority of the votes in any one district. But proportional representation also enhances the role of the party over that of individual candidates, as citizens cast their main vote for an organization and its entire slate of candidates, not for individuals. Thus, if a party gets enough votes to obtain three seats in parliament, the first three candidates on its list will get those seats. The system strengthens party bosses, who decide which candidates make the list, and how close to the top they are.
To reduce the excessive power of party bosses, some countries employ proportional representation systems with open lists, which allow voters not only to cast a vote for a party, but also to indicate their preference for particular candidates on the list. If voters avail themselves of that right in large numbers -- and in many countries, they do not -- they can overrule the party leadership and ensure a parliamentary seat for a candidate whose name appeared lower on the list.
In Iraq, the 2005 parliamentary elections were conducted under a closed list system, but the January 2009 provincial council elections used an open list and, after much debate, the 2010 parliamentary elections will do the same. A preliminary analysis of the 2009 provincial elections suggests that enough voters availed themselves of the opportunity to prioritize individual candidates to affect the outcome. No overall figures are yet available to indicate how many seats were affected.
The Election Commission
Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), first established in 2004 by the Coalition Provisional Authority, is responsible for organizing the elections. It is supported by the Electoral Team of UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq), other UN agencies, and several international NGOs.
The Dispute Over the Election Law
Iraq has had several election laws since the U.S. occupation began in 2003. The latest was approved by the parliament, after much controversy and delay, on November 7.
The January 2005 elections for the Transitional National Assembly were held on the basis of proportional representation with a closed list system, with the entire country forming a single electoral district.
The December 2005 parliamentary elections were also held on the basis of proportional representation with a closed list system, but the country was divided into eighteen electoral districts corresponding to the provinces. Seats were allocated among the provinces on the basis of population, with one seat for every 100,000 people. This was something of a challenge in a country that has not had a census since 1957, and where considerable population movements have taken place in the intervening years as a result of Saddam Hussein's policies, and conflict and ethnic cleansing since the U.S. invasion.
In total, 230 seats were allocated to the provinces in 2005. In addition, 45 seats were contested on the basis of proportional representation at the national level. The allocation of these "compensatory seats" among provinces was extremely complex, and most voters did not understand the process, which made it controversial. Compensatory seats were allocated to parties that had received many votes nationally, but not enough in any single province to win a seat; and to reward parties with the largest nationwide support.
The January 2009 provincial council elections were held on the basis of proportional representation, but for the first time the law called for an open list rather than a closed list system.
Two particularly thorny issues delayed the approval of the election law for the 2010 parliamentary elections: disagreement about the voter rolls in the northern city of Kirkuk, and whether to hold elections on an open or closed list system.
The Kirkuk Conundrum - This was the main obstacle to the adoption of the election law and indeed to the holding of elections countrywide. The electoral dispute centered on who has the right to vote in Kirkuk. The underlying issue is whether Kirkuk should be part of the Kurdistan region.
Open vs. Closed Lists - The open list issue was the less important of the two and probably received more attention than it deserved under the circumstances. The new law calls for an open list system.
In October 2008, when the elections law for the 2009 provincial council elections was approved, the parliament failed to agree on a formula for Kirkuk and appointed instead a committee to study the situation further and find a solution by March 31, 2009. The life of the committee was extended by two months, but to no avail. Thus, provincial elections did not take place in Kirkuk.
Approval of an election law for 2010 almost failed as well, owing
to the convergence of three problems:
In all elections held in Iraq after 2003, voter rolls have been based on the food rations distribution system that Saddam's regime set up after the Gulf War, which remains in place today.
All families are entitled to receive food rations, with the amount determined by the numbers and ages of family members. As a result, families have to register with the food distribution center in the areas where they reside. These lists have been used as the basis for the voter lists, and a system is now in place that allows citizens to check if their names appear on the lists and to request to be added if they can prove proper residence. The system has worked reasonably well in most of the country, and was probably the best way to register voters under the circumstances. Ideally, the country should hold a new census, but this is not likely to happen soon.
But the food rationing rolls do not help settle the problem of who has the right to vote in Kirkuk, since the dispute is not about who resides in the city, but who has the right to reside there - a highly political issue.
Arabs and Turkmens favored using the voter lists drawn up in 2004, thus excluding Kurds who arrived in Kirkuk more recently. Kurds argue that the 2004 list reflects a population distorted by Saddam Hussein's ethnic cleansing, and demand a new list reflecting today's population. Possible compromises discussed at various times included granting equal numbers of seats to each population group, or granting compensatory seats to some population groups.
Although the new law mandates the use of the new 2009 lists, elections in Kirkuk are certain to be highly contentious, contested along purely sectarian lines, and quite possibly violent.
Resources for this publication
Role of the United Nations
2010 Iraqi Parliamentary Elections
On March 5th, 6th and 7th, 2010, Iraqis in and outside of Iraq will participate in the Parliamentary election. If you or your parents/grandparents were born in Iraq, you are eligible to cast your vote.
Iraq's Parliament is made up of 325 seats, five (5) of which are designated
390 - Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council
391 - Chaldean National Congress
392 - Chaldean Democratic Party Union
394 - Ishtar Democratic List (APP - BNDP - CDF United) Independent
Where to Vote?
For a list of voting stations in your area, visit the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) website which is organizing Out of Country Voting (OCV) for the 2010 Parliamentary elections.
http://www.ocv-ihec.com (in Arabic)
http://www.ocv-ihec.com/EnglishHome.asp (in English)
Eligibility for the Iraqi ElectionsEligible voters need to provide information to prove their Iraqi identity and be born on or before January 31, 1992. Please bring two (2) official documents, with one having your recent picture.
These documents prove you are eligible for voting:
These documents prove part of eligibility and need another document to supplement the rest of the eligibility condition. If you can't prove you are Iraqi, please bring any documents that prove your father is/was an Iraqi citizen.
How to Mark the Ballot
Please ask the Ballot Issuer for help to properly mark your ballot.