Iraq and Gulf Analysis

More on the Elections Law

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 25 September 2008 0:00

The Iraqi parliament has now published what is supposed to be the final version of the elections law. One remaining caveat concerns the discrepancy between some of the articles in the published version and those quoted in yesterday’s official press release from the parliament, especially concerning articles 32 and 35. The second point about a permission to use symbolism related to non-candidates except “religious authorities” (maraji‘ al-din) has been omitted in the complete version of the law, and article 35 sounds altogether different from the original: the press release referred to a permission to use public buildings and mosques for “information purposes” related to the electoral process but not for political campaigning as such, whereas the newly released text bans the use of government offices for campaigning purposes but expressly allows it in mosques and places of worship. While the “change” to article 32 may be a case of an oversight by the website staff, the differences between the two versions of article 35 are substantial. It could be simply the case of a wrong draft having been used, but it might also reflect some last-minute changes to the law that have not yet received the attention they deserve.

Another notable feature of the released law is the non-mention of Kurdistan, where leaders reportedly have decided not to carry out elections. They appear to be doing this unilaterally – it is not something that is explicitly part of the law, whose language itself is general and refers to “all the governorates” with no other exception than Kirkuk.

There has been a degree of confusion in the press about the women’s quota: this quota was adopted already on 22 July, but back then it was purely aspirational – no mechanism for arriving at the quota was defined other than an instruction to parties to nominate a certain proportion of women. Now, the counting of the open lists results is arranged so that every fourth* winner from these lists will be a woman, but there is no guaranteed quota (theoretically, in some small electoral districts male independent candidates might win all the seats) and the specific goal of 25% does not appear in the final version of the law referred to above.

Finally, there has been some debate about the omission of a total of 13 seats that had been reserved for “micro-minorities” (including Yazidis, Shabak, Sabaeans, Christians) in the original 22 July version of the law (though no modalities for their election had been specified). A third of these seats were in Kurdistan and another two in Kirkuk. Some minority representatives have protested against what may possibly have been horse-trading between Kurdish and Iraqi nationalists; others may hope that the renewed focused on national unity in the parts of Iraq south in Kurdistan in itself may offer new possibilities for minorities without any need to resort to a quota system.

*Or more probably every third? The original has “At the end of every three winners there should be a woman irrespective of men winning [more votes]”.

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