Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The IHEC Publishes the Distribution of Governorate and Compensatory Seats

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 11 November 2009 16:28

The revised version of the Iraqi election law only publishes the ratio of deputies per population (1:100,000) rather than exact figures, leaving it to government statistics and the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) to fix the numbers.

Today, the revised numbers are reported as follows:

Governorate 2005 2010 Change Percent
Basra 18 24 +6 33
Maysan 7 10 +3 33
Dhi Qar 12 18 +6 50
Muthanna 5 7 +2 40
Qadisiyya 8 11 +3 38
Babel 11 16 +5 45
Najaf 8 12 +4 50
Karbala 6 10 +4 67
Wasit 8 11 +3 38
Baghdad 59 68 +9 15
Anbar 9 14 +5 55
Salahaddin 8 12 +4 50
Nineveh 19 31 +12 63
Kirkuk 9 12 +3 33
Diyala 10 13 +3 30
Sulaymaniyya 15 15 0 0
Arbil 13 14 +1 8
Dahuk 7 9 +2 29
Compensation and minority seats 45 16 (8+8) -29 -64
Total 275 323


These numbers, which are supposed to reflect population increase as well as certain severe underestimates of the population in parts of the country back in 2005, are significant for several reasons. Firstly, the fact that the largest increases include some governorates that are not well represented in the current government (Nineveh, Anbar, and to some extent Dhi Qar, which has always been part of the “under-developed” south) suggests that the system is still capable of behaving with a degree of neutrality, which is a good sign as we approach the 2010 elections (not least after the embarrassment of the “lost” 2004 registers for Kirkuk). The marked increase in Nineveh’s representation was expected, and the weak growth in the Kurdish areas reflect the fact that the 2005 quotas were largely thought to be inflated – a fact that was also mirrored in the earlier debate about the Kurdistan share of the total oil revenue of the country, where the figure of 17% was deemed as too high by the rest of the government but nevertheless agreed as a compromise for the financial year 2009.

Secondly, the figures highlight the degree to which proportionality will be reduced under the new system, since the total number of compensatory seats is reduced dramatically, and since both out-of-country voting as well as minority seats – a new feature as far as parliamentary elections are concerned – will count towards this small quota (effectively meaning the exiles will count for the equivalent of no more than 800,000 domestic Iraqis, which seems to be a very low estimate). This is bound to favour the big parties to a greater extent than in 2005, since a greater proportion of the total of seats will be won in the governorates (where surplus seats are also distributed to winning lists only). Nonetheless, to some extent this will be cancelled out by positive features of the revised law (especially the open list) as well as the fact that the distribution method for compensatory seats was never particularly democratic in the first place (the seats were simply given to parties, whose leaderships decided which candidates should be promoted as winners). Also, local lists that do well in a particular governorate may still obtain representation; it is the small parties that have adherents across the country but fail to obtain representation in a single governorate that lose out (some of them, such as the Communist party, typically campaigned for a single-district constituency for this reason.)

15 Responses to “The IHEC Publishes the Distribution of Governorate and Compensatory Seats”

  1. Reidar,

    I don’t see why some commentators see red in the reduction of proportionality votes; Iraqi expatriates have a very low participation in past elections.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, for what it may be worth it is nevertheless this issue that seems to be the focus of the speculation about a possible veto of the law by Tariq al-Hashemi. Those who obejct say there may be as many as 3 million Iraqis abroad – I’m sure the figure is in itself disputed.

  3. bb said

    What is curious – this population increase throughout all the provinces of Iraq – how can it be so given there are supposedly more than one and half million who have fled the country altogether since 2005?

    And also, on what basis have the 9 overwhelmingly shia provinces had their representation in the COR increased by an average of 44%?

  4. Reidar Visser said

    As said those changes reflect both growth AND corrections of previous underestimates. The fact that Sunni-dominated areas top the list of growth suggests to me that the process still has some integrity to it, since this is something that is not going to benefit the people in power.

  5. Pushdaree said

    WOW, interesting how you justify the growth in the non Kurdish area. So in Nineveh, over 1.2M were not getting food ration. Your justification clearly show your biased views. I wonder why the Iraqi government did not carry population census and rely on food ration cards to allocate Parliament seats. At 2005 election, Kurds only got 1 seat in Baghdad out of 59, even though there are at least 1 million Kurds living in city so much for the truth and fairness.

    أكعــد اعــوج واحجــي عــدل

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Pushdaree, I don’t “justify” it, I’m just saying that the figures seem more credible in view of the fact that they are produced by a system that is thought to be biased against the Mosul element of the Iraqi population. The stats are from the ministry of trade, formerly under Sudani and now under Safi, both friends of Maliki. Unless Maliki forms a last-minute alliance with Nujayfi, the increase in Mosul is something that is likely to have a negative impact on his performance in the election. And as you know well, both Sunnis and Shiites in parliament disputed the Kurdish claim of 17% of the oil income during the last budgetary debate.

    As for your observations on the 2005 elections, there is after all another possible explanation, although you may perhaps find it somewhat heretic: Perhaps the Kurds of Baghdad are not interested in the KDP-PUK agenda? You postulate that the Kurds automatically will vote for these two parties, but what if they are Iraqi nationalists? As you know, the Kurdish parties were exceedingly well positioned inside the Iraqi government in December 2005 with strong friends in SCIRI. It really seems questionable that they should have become the victim of widespread fraud at that particular juncture.

    You claim this blog is biased. My writings reflect how I see the political situation in contemporary Iraq after having studied the country’s history for fifteen years. I am suspicious about the narrative about “Shiites”, “Sunnis” and “Kurds” locked in eternal conflict with each other that has proliferated since 2003 and is often written by people who have not done a lot of work on Iraqi history. I simply don’t believe most Iraqis wake up each day and ask themselves “what can I do for my sectarian community?” But if you prefer that sort of narrative (you, too, use expressions like “the Shiites want” etc.) then I can recommend the 95% of the US mainstream media that cultivates this sort of discourse. As do non-American outlets like AFP and the BBC. The BBC in particular excels at it.

  7. Ari said

    Reidar Visser,

    By every new article of you I am lossing more and more respect for you. I don’t understand your anti-Kurdish articles, the worst thing is that you are getting more and more anti-Kurdish at every new article.

    The only good thing of this UNFAIR distribution of seats is that it will lead to the break up of Iraq(Finally!!!).

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Well, Ari, I think you need to read my articles a little more carefully. There is a major difference between criticising KDP/PUK (and particularly KDP) and being “anti-Kurdish”. But I have explained that at greater length before. Also I am unable to find a specific, fresh argument in your comment.

  9. bb said

    It’s interesting in that it shows how proportional representation can start to lose transparency if it is broken down into “districts”, eg governorates and not conducted on a national basis.

    If the election were on a national basis, it wouldn’t matter how many seats there were in the COR, the proportions would still be true.

    But unless you increase the governorate seats by an even % you are introducing a bias into the system.

    Given the electoral rolls are still supposedly based on the old ration cards (public distribution system) the marked increase in some governorates like Ninewah are open to question in the absence of a census. Better that Iraq revert to the national system that they used in Jan 05.

    And there’s still those one and a half million refugees who left Iraq afer 2005 and are supposedly living in Jordan and Syria? Has this figure always been beat up, I wonder?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, note that the single-constituency system proved universally unpopular back in 2005. It was identified as the main culprit in having removed the cross-cuttting cleavages of governorate boundaries as well as the links betweeen voters and representatives that are deemed an essential aspect of any modern democracy. Above all, by doing so it was accused of maximising the sectarian vote (for example, in Basra, people were unfamiliar with most of the names on the lists, so sectarian identity in that case inevitably became a navigation factor). This year only the Kurds and the Iraqi Communist Party wanted the single constituency. The Kurds because they wanted to maximise the ethnic-vote potential among outlying Kurdish minorities that cannot hope to gain representation at the governorate level; the ICP because they are so small that the may not get enough votes in a single governorate but could maybe hope for a more decent national average.

  11. bb said

    Thanks, I do understand what the objections to the single constituency system was. I was pointing out that when multi districts are introduced PE starts to lose its transparency, and the system open to manipulation. Which is precisely the allegation that is going to be made about these figures produced by the Ministry of Trade.

    The proposition appears to be that since 2005 the arab part of Iraq has increased its population by 17% and the Kurdish areas by very little and in Sulaymaniah not at all!

    The Kurds are in fact looking at having the total number of their seats DECREASED substantially from their present representation, while the shia and sunni arabs get a substantial increase.

    I would say this is going to be a bigger issue than Kirkuk for the Kurds.

  12. Reidar Visser said

    The proposition appears to be that the Kurdistan estimates from 2005 were a little on the high side. Again, this is a long-standing debate, and not something that was conjured up for the purposes of the election law discussion. Most non-Kurdish parliamentarians found the allocation of 17% of the oil revenue for Kurdistan in the 2009 budget to be way too high, and only approved it on the condition that the figure be revised in 2010. Also, many attribute the lack of growth in Kurdistan proper to the increased number of Kurds that have transferred their ration card residency status (whether real of pro forma) to Kirkuk, which in turn has experienced an exodus of non-Kurdish population elements.

  13. bb said

    One can well understand why it is a long standing debate given the resistance arab Iraqis might have to the idea that the Kurds might compromise a bigger percentage of the Iraq population than they always thought/or were led to believe by the previous regime?

    But I would suggest springing on this new fait accompli – based on no reliable evidence population count at all – where the Kurds get 3 seats out of the new 75 and lose most if not all of their 11 compensatory seats is not something they are going to take lightly?

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Sure, Barzani has already threatened a boycott. As for the total statistical picture, if you find the number of Kurdistan MPs to be low compared to estimates of the Kurdish population of Iraq as a whole, remember what our Kurdish/pro-Kurdish friends have pointed out previously, i.e. that Baghdad is the biggest Kurdish city in Iraq with perhaps 1 million plus Kurds (even if they don’t necessarily vote Kurdish), and that in addition to Kirkuk there are Kurds in Nineveh, Salahaddin, Diyala and Kut not reflected in the figures for the federal region of Kurdistan.

  15. bb said

    Yes. And I remember well, going back before 2003 even, that Baghdad was frequently referred to as a Sunni city. Which was proved not to be the case in 2005 in both the constitutional vote and the Dec 05 election.

    What Iraq needs is a census. Failing that, I’m with Salah (I think it was) who asks why the voter registrations are not based on birth cerfificates.

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