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Inside the 2010 Iraqi Elections

Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 02:03 PM CT

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AssyriaAssyrians Voting in the Iraqi Elections

Election Date

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:

  • Saddam Hussein had tried to "Arabize" Kirkuk by forcing Kurds out of the city and resettling Arabs from Iraq's South in their place;
  • After 2003, Kurds started moving back into Kirkuk in considerable numbers. These Kurds claim that they or their parents had been removed by Saddam Hussein. In response, Arabs and Turkmens (who constitute the third component of Kirkuk's population) allege that the Kurds are newcomers who are moving to Kirkuk at the behest of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which wants to turn Arabs and Turkmens in Kirkuk into minorities in order to annex Kirkuk to Kurdistan.
  • The Iraqi government, the United States, and the United Nations have failed to implement the provisions of the Transitional Administrative Law of 2004 (TAL) and of the Iraqi constitution of 2005. Article 58 of the TAL, written under the supervision of the Coalition Provisional Authority, set up a commission charged with investigating the claims of people alleging that they had been expelled from Kirkuk under Saddam Hussein and with facilitating the return to the city of those whose claims were found to be legitimate. At the same time, the commission was supposed to help resettle the Arab newcomers brought in by Saddam to their areas of origin. The commission was also charged with investigating the changes Saddam's regime made to the administrative boundaries of the provinces, which Kurds claimed incorporated Kurdish majority areas into predominantly Arab provinces. Article 140 of the 2005 constitution went one step further: not only did it call for the implementation of TAL article 58, but it mandated that after claims were settled and the population presumably restored to its "natural" composition, legal residents of Kirkuk should decide in a referendum held by December 31, 2007, whether Kirkuk should be annexed to Kurdistan. The deadline for the referendum was later extended to December 31, 2008, by the United Nations, which was then in charge of managing the Kirkuk problem. In reality, the claim commission never finished its job, the referendum was never held, and the fate of Kirkuk remains the object of major dispute.
    Under the election law approved in November 2009, all residents registered in Kirkuk in 2009 had the right to cast their votes, but the law also set up a process to review the problem of eligibility after the election, at which point, major controversy is sure to erupt. (See Voter Registration and Clearing the Way for Elections in Kirkuk)

Voter Registration

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.

Pertinent Legislation

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 to Christians.
These are the five slates taking part in the March 7th, 2010 elections.

389 - Al-Rafidain List (Assyrian Democratic Movement, ADM "Zowaa") (in English | in Arabic)

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.

https://www.ocv-ihec.com (in Arabic)

https://www.ocv-ihec.com/EnglishHome.asp (in English)


Chicago, IL
1919 A Pickwick Lane,
Glenview, Illinois 60026 USA

Detroit, MI (1)
Dearborn Tree Manor
5101 Oakman
Dearborn, Michigan 48126 USA

Detroit, MI (2)
Bella Banquets
4100 E. 14 Mile Rd,
Warren, Michigan 48092 USA

Phoenix, AZ
2713 W. Northern Ave.
Phoenix, Arizona 85051 USA

Washington, DC
11810 Sunrise Valley Drive,
Reston, Virginia 20191 USA

San Diego, CA
1340 Broadway,
EL Cajon, California 92021 USA

San Francisco, CA
Alameda county fairgrounds,
4501 Pleasanton Avenue,
Pleasanton, California 94566 USA

Nashville, TN
4527 Nolensville Pike,
Nashville, Tennessee 37211 USA


1510 Birchmount Road
Toronto, Ontario M1P 2G6 Canada
مزده صالح: Phone: 905-512-3289

817 Exeter Road
London, Ontario N6E 1W1 Canada
رائد رحمن Phone: 519-895-1239

6500 Cote de Liesse
Montreal, Quebec H4T-1E3 Canada
صلاح نصر الله Phone: 514-582-8185

1800 Bank Street #10
Ottawa, Ontario K1V 0W3 Canada
أحمد صالح محمد Phone: 613-884-6667

1316 - 33rd Sreet NE
Calgary, Alberta T2A-6B6 Canada
عبد الحميد علي Phone: 403-714-9777

1205 Pinetree Way
Coquitlam, British Columbia V3B7Y3 Canada
أحمد فنوني Phone: 778-837-6113

Phone: 905-388-5413
نسرين مـــرقص


Editors' Note
If you bring a U.S. Passport, baptism papers from a church in Iraq, and a drivers license, you will not be eligible to vote because there needs to be a genuine Iraqi document of your father included with your documentation. 

Eligibility for the Iraqi Elections

Eligible 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:

  1. Iraqi original documents:
    a. Civil identification card
    b. Iraqi Nationality Certificate
    c. Iraqi passport (G)
    d. Daftar Al-Nifoos Al-Iraqi
  2. International documents:
    a. Refugee certificate issued by the United Nations
    b. Certificate issued by the Red Cross (the certificates issued by associations of Red Cross in the countries the voters reside in)
  3. Foreign Identities
    a. A-residence identities in the foreign countries

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.

  1. Iraqi documents:
    a. Iraqi passport (M-A-S-H-N) that proves ID, age and nationality
    b. Ration Card
  2. Foreign documents to prove ID, age and nationality:
    a. Resident document in the foreign country
    b. Drivers License card
    c. Personal ID card
    d. Foreign Passport

How to Mark the Ballot

Please ask the Ballot Issuer for help to properly mark your ballot.

  • The Ballot Issuer explains to the voter how to mark the ballot:
    Place a mark (√) in the box next to the political entity you would like to vote for.
  • If you would like to vote for a candidate, place a mark (√) in the box next to the Candidate number in the candidate area on the left hand side of the ballot paper, in Addition to the mark for the political entity.
  • If you place a mark only for a candidate, with no mark for a political entity, then your vote is invalid.

Polling Procedures

According to the 2008 Election Law the date of the election must be announced no fewer than 60 days before the poll itself.

IHEC will manage 560 voting centres across Iraq staffed by about 300,000 officials. Teachers and will also be seconded to the electoral process to help manage the polls. There will be a curfew starting 48 hours before Election Day and lasting 24 hours after the polling stations shut. During that time no vehicles will be allowed in the vicinity of polling stations.

To maintain the integrity of the electoral process, vote counting must produce results that are valid, accurate and accepted by all participants. A number of important measures must be taken to achieve this objective.

Counting should be done as soon as possible after the polls close

The longer that ballots remain uncounted, the higher is the risk of tampering with the results. Before beginning the count, however, it is important to ensure that the site is secure and observers are present.

The voter's intention must be properly understood

A voter may mark the ballot but miss the designated box or space, making it difficult to know how to count the vote. Too strict an interpretation of the rules may invalidate an otherwise valid vote.

Secrecy of the vote must be protected

The secrecy of the vote is maintained when ballots are not marked in a way that could identify the voter. If ballots are validated by a stamp or signature, the use of a standard mark can minimize the possibility of connecting a ballot with a voter.

Polling Procedures


HEC established the following email and phone numbers for complaints concerning the media campaign for PEs and candidates


Form 110 (Complaints) Arabic

Note: This form is only a sample. It does not contain a serial number.

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