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June 23, 2008



Excellent commentary with a refreshing style, thank you very much BfB!

Reidar Visser also discusses the prospects of the various opposition parties forming workable coalitions to challenge for power in the upcoming regional elections. He wants to be optimistic since he sees such a process as being in the best interests of Iraq, but reading between the lines it seems that BfB is right to expect the opposition to be badly splintered and outmaneuvered come election day. Visser also talks about how the list system for voting definitely games the system in favor of the establishment parties and against the Iraqi people selecting on the basis of actual candidates since the government leaders don't have much of a base of their own. I still find it difficult to believe that the Sadrists are getting rolled this easily given their popular support.


Second that on the Sadrists. I wonder what they expect from these elections, if anything. They have been shoring up nationalist credentials, though, Hizbollah-style, by refusing to level arms against other Iraqis.


" The Kurds, though they do have local support in their region (or deeply rooted authoritarian control over the populace, take your pick), are dramatically over-represented at the national level, "

How so? The two major Kurdish parties polled 21.7% of the vote in the Dec 05 elections and won 55 seats - 20% of the COR. Under-represented, if anything.

"but what the PTA want is IN. They want in. As Abu Rumman makes clear, the resistance/insurgency is so dead and pathetic that even they want in. PTA want a piece of the massive, kick-back laden, contract-dispensing honey pot and extortion ring that is the GOI and, increasingly, the provincial governments. And the PTB don't want to let them in. Why would they?"

In the run-up to Jan 2005, courtesy of Ahmed Chalabi, Sistani and the Shia got their heads around how the proportional representation electoral system works and formed the umbrella UIA. PR is a conservative, not radical system, and favours the status quo by preventing "winner take all" outcomes.

In Dec 05 Chalabi pulled out of the UIA and the INC contested that election on its own. Chalabi did not win one seat, even for himself, while the UIA took 128 seats out of 275.

Moral: Disunity/fragmentation is death in politics, as it is in insurgencies. Under PR, Iraqi elections should be fairly easy to predict because the Shia vote is concentrated in 9 provinces, the Kurdish in 3 and the Arab Sunni in 3, leaving 3 "mixtures"

So political logic/realities would suggest that when 2009 rolls around both the Sadrists and Virtue will be back under the umbrella of the UIA, Sistani will again give blessing and UIA will again be the biggest bloc vote in the COR. The seats will be negotiated between the parties before the election, as they were last time.

Similarly, it would be against political logic if the IAF didn't put its differences aside and re form so it can again be the major Sunni bloc in the COR and the US can insist, again, it become part of the government.

The only wild card is the Awakenings, because they are as yet electorally untested and they might well wipe the IAF off the board in Anbar and Saluddin. The provincial elections will give the clue, no doubt.


Excellent stuff and dovetails well with the GAO report. Thak you, whoever you are.

Regards, C


You know, closed list PR doesn't exactly engender unity and coalitioning, especially with a huge district magnitudes--and low thresholds, which Iraq has aplenty. It does encourage rigid, hierarchical, top-down factions--of smallish sizes. Although it's not obvious that elections will be taken "seriously," should it roll around, it does seem that the factions are doing pretty as much expected.


Yes, the higher the threshold the better the chance of forming coalition governments. My recollection is that the Iraqi threshold was raised between the Jan 05 and Dec 05 elections?

There is some argument to say "closed party list" systems also encourage blocs of sufficient size to facilitate coalition forming.

In the Jan 05 elections, on the face of it, the UIA and the Kurdish parties together won more than enough seats (183) to govern in coalition on their own. Instead the coalition was expanded to include the Sunni parties and Allawi's party, which have since withdrawn from the gov. Will they scramble to get back into Guest Post's honey pot before 2009?


I think part of the problem is that it requires a 2/3 majority to *form* a government, but after that it merely takes the 50%+1 to actually carry votes. Thus, even though the Shia and Kurds collectively got more than 50% of the seats, they fell short of 67%, so they included the others into a "unity" government, whom they were able to safely ignore once the government was actually formed.


In the constitution passed on Oct 15 (ref Unesco):

The President is elected by an absolute majority of the council of representatives (ie 50 plus 1).

The PM and Cabinet requires an absolute majority, 50 PLUS 1.

Ordinary decisions of the COR require a simple majority provided a quorum (absolute majority of Reps) is present.

The ratification of international agreements, declaration of war or states of emergency require two thirds majorities.

On the face of it, the UIA and the 2 Kurdish parties had way more than the number required to form govt on their own after Dec 2005.

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