Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Compensation Seats To Be Awarded According to the Procedures of 2005

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 13 April 2010 16:10

One little news story that has almost drowned in all the speculation about coalition-making concerns the modalities for awarding the 7 “compensation seats” in the next Iraqi parliament.

Over the last week, following a(nother) non-decision by the Iraqi federal supreme court, it has become clear that the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) will retreat from its own regulation 21 on the award of compensation seats and instead employ the method first stipulated in the election law back in 2005. In practice, this means that instead of giving these seats to the best vote-getters within the winning entities that just failed to achieve representation in the governorates, coalition leaderships are to present lists of candidates to IHEC listed in the order they themselves (i.e. the leadership instead of the electorate) prefer.

There are at least two troublesome aspects of this decision. The first is the potential for subversion of the will of the electorate implied by this method, since leaders in theory can award the seats to any candidate within their list regardless of their number of personal votes. True, the consequences are considerable less than in 2005, since the overall number of compensation seats awarded has been dramatically reduced (from 45 to 7). Nonetheless, it seems unclear what kind of democratic principle can be evoked to justify the award of this kind of “lordship” to a candidate with only a handful of votes, whereas candidates with more than 10,000 personal votes may obtain no representation. Secondly, of course, any tampering with IHEC regulation 21 could in theory open up a can of worms, since there are other aspects of the award of seats – notably the re-ordering of candidates based on personal votes under the open-list system – that are not explicitly defined in the law.

This decision has another dimension too: It adds another item to the to-do list of the biggest parties. They now have until 15 April to come up with their lists of candidates to fill the compensation seats, two each for Iraqiyya, State of Law and INA (this probably also means at least another week of delay in certifying the results). Only the Kurds have so far been public about their decision (one seat for Fuad Masum of PUK). And once more, the focus will be on INA for more than one reason. It is the list with the greatest degree of internal fragmentation, and the leadership will face the delicate choice of rewarding the best vote-getters (typically Sadrists, although Ahmad al-Khafaji of Badr is also well positioned in Basra), or ISCI party veterans who were listed in Kurdish governorates, presumably to avoid any potential scandals over possible lack of support among their own core electorate in the Shiite-majority provinces (this could be Humam Hamudi who got 68 votes in Sulaymaniyya, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir with 67 votes in Dahuk, or maybe Rida Jawad Taqi, 9 votes in Arbil). Also, back in 2005, SCIRI used this mechanism to great effect, by winning no less than a third of its big parliamentary contingent precisely through such compensation seats for party elites obtaining a few hundred votes in places like Anbar.

In other news, four parties in the Wasit governorate council –ISCI/Badr, the Sadrists, the Iraqi Constitutional Party and Iraqiyya – have joined to form a common coalition against State of Law. These parties have very little in common except that they dislike Maliki, and it may be yet another attempt by ISCI at nudging SLA towards an all-Shiite alliance with INA. But Maliki still appears to be resisting: Today there were news reports first about an SLA/INA merger having actually materialised, only to be followed by rumours of a delay and continued negotiations.

23 Responses to “Compensation Seats To Be Awarded According to the Procedures of 2005”

  1. Ali said

    The whole concept of the open list and personal votes seemed quite dubious to me from the start. Lesser known candidates, or even more experienced ones, never stood a chance of getting more than a few thousand votes when they were on the same list as the party leaders who got hundreds of thousands of votes, and what’s the logic in giving the seat to candidate number 20 who got 2500 votes as opposed to candidate number 2 who got 2000 votes.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    But there is more to the compensation seats than the effect of the personal vote. For example, at the entity level, INA got 192 votes in Dahuk, 205 votes in Sulaymaniyya and 431 votes in Arbil. Would it be fair to award the two compensation seats of INA to two candidates who ran in those constituencies?

  3. Kermanshahi said

    Well it was obvious that Listi Kurdistan would give their seat to ex-Prime Minister Fuad Masum, who is the current head of their parliamentary bloc, but I’m surprised that he didn’t win a seat in the first place. Also the PUK with 17 seats is significantly stronger than expected: 40% of Listi Kurdistan, while some had expected this to be less than 25%. It also leaves them with over 2x as many seats as Gorran and thus clearly still the biggest party in the East.

    In the SLC I think Maliki might give the seats to some of his senior allies who failed to gain seats, but maybe he’d just give them to people from his party. In the NIA I think ISCI will get the two seats to give them some more parliamentary strength, or maybe they’ll split it 1 seat for ISCI and 1 for Sadr.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Interestingly, today Hamid Muala (himself a “compensation deputy” from 2005) claims the INA seats will be split between the Sadrists and ISCI. I still think any award to Hammudi, Saghir or Taqi would provoke an outcry given their exceedingly low personal scores (below 100 votes in all three cases).

    As for SLA, it has been suggested that they will give one of their two seats to Hajim al-Hasani, their “integrated Sunni” (and also official spokesman of the alliance).

  5. Kermanshahi said

    So, Hamid Hayes is definetly out then, the INA isn’t going to make any attempt to look non-secterian. Do they actually have any Sunni MPs? I see they’ve won some seats in Ninawa and Diyala but these could be from Shi’a minorities in the area. It means al-Anizi is out too and from the list it seems Fadhila’s leader wasn’t elected as MP either, but did he actually run?

    BTW, did Da’awa – Tanzim al-Iraq leaders al-Musawi and al-Sahlani win any seats? And if not, you think SLA will give the seats to them?

  6. Reidar Visser said

    No Sunnis as INA winners as far as I know. Nineveh is possibly for a Turkmen but I’d be surprised if he is not Shiite. Diyala is Hadi al-Amiri plus two Sadrists.

    As far as I know, Hashem al-Hashemi of Fadila did not run, neither did Hashem al-Musawi of Tanzim al-Iraq I think. I cannot remember having seen Sahlani win a seat, or being a candidate at all this time, for that matter.

    Please note that I don’t have time to double-check this right now so all of the above is conjecture.

  7. Ali Wasati said

    Reidar, why did Abdul Karim Al-Mahmidawi not run for elections, does’nt he have the backing of many tribes in Amara, and he is thought of as a legend of the folk there for his resistance to Saddam.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Frankly, I don’t know. He did join Iraqiyya for the coalition but I cannot remember having seen him as a candidate in Maysan or anywhere else. He has very strong anti-Iranian credentials and made a very public stance against the al-Fakka occupation, but he has also been involved in a number of tribal disputes and could be seen as problematic in that respect perhaps.

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Just got an e-mail reminding me about Sahlani. The reason we haven’t seen him as a candidate is of course that he died in a car crash not so long ago. I remember it now; I think it happened in Dhi Qar. I assume it was Qasim al-Sahlani you referred to.

  10. Kermanshahi said

    It seems quite a few leaders didn’t run, as far as I know Abu Risha didn’t run, Sadr and al-Hakim didn’t, the leaders of Fadhila and Da’awa Iraq didn’t, al-Mutlaq didn’t but than he was banned (Yawher didn’t run either, did he?), Talabani and Barzani didn’t run (but that’s logical), Nawshirwan Mustafa and Ali Bapir surprisingly did (seems they consider the Iraq’s Council of Representatives more important than the Kurdistan National Assembly) but KIU leaders Salaheddine Bahaaeddin and Hadi Ali didn’t run and I didn’t see ITF leader Sadettin Ergec’s name anywhere either, he’s a current MP so why did he not run, or was he not elected (which seems unlikely to me since 2 lower level members of his party were elected from Kerkuk).

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Yeah, this is the fear-of-the-open-list factor – the danger that the system will produce unseemly results for the big leaders. Sadr at one point came up with an official policy of only having non-clerical candidates; I am not sure if it was adhered to stringently in the end. In the case of ISCI, the absence of Ammar looks worse, since his father did stand for election under the closed-list system in 2005 and no particular rationale for him not standing as a candidate this time has been put forward.

  12. Reidar,
    Al Iraqyya keeps saying if they were not charged with forming the next government then they will quit the political process. If you could narrow it down to one person who decides whether or not Al Iraqyya will be charged, who will that person be? Maliki?
    It seems like the logical consequence to an INA/SLA merger.

  13. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, that’s a good question. As I see it, from the second INA and SLA merges, their leaders will have put themselves on a train from which it’s difficult to get off. I mean the whole point of that painful merger, which Maliki has strenuously resisted since May last year, would be to come in a position from which they would try to evoke the federal supreme court interpretation of the “biggest bloc” as basis for the right to form a government.

    So despite all the sweet talk by ISCI, it is very hard to see how a combined SLA/INA would be prepared to give the premiership to Allawi. The irony, of course, is that the other premiership ambition that likely collapses once the merger materialises, is that of Maliki himself. It is of course why he has resisted so long – a merger really is like a poisoned chalice given all the enmity that has built up between him and the rest of the Shiite Islamist camp over the past year, with too many people wanting to get rid of him once SLA has signed up.

    I think it would be extremely sad if the two most popular politicians in Iraq, Maliki and Allawi, should destroy their own prospects in this way.

  14. Ali said

    Do you think Ammar Al-Hakim would not have done as well as the likes of Allawi, Maliki and Hashimi if he was a candidate in the open-list system? If Jafar Al-Sadr can get 30,000 votes without political experience, and a less senior figure in ISCI like Baqir Jabr can do well in Baghdad, I don’t see how anyone could fear Hakim coming off badly.

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, I guess that’s what I ask myself. News of his non-candidacy (plus the symbolic candidacies in Kurdistan of Hamudi/Saghir) came last summer just after the prospect of open-list came on the agenda in a serious way and the Sadrists started their “primaries” (which ISCI copied, apparently without any great success even though at times al-Forat would show no other news story). In sum, why did Hakim not take this opportunity, which would have strengthened his position in the succession struggle within Badr/ISCI immensely, that is, if he had been successful?

  16. Ali W said

    Reidar, it seems that the SLA/INA merger is going to happen now with the blessing of the Kurds. What, as Faisal has already mentioned, this could lead to INM abandoning the political process, is that what you think they will do?

    And if yes, what will be the reprecussions? Could we see an increase in violence, or what that be minimal due to a stronger Iraqi police/military and lack of will to start violence again?

  17. Reidar Visser said

    They could also opt to stay inside the political process but without taking part in any sham government of national unity. For example by taking a leading and very public role in the constitutional revision process, where Kurdish-Shiite tension is likely to re-emerge at some point and thereby become a source of trouble for the government.

  18. Kermanshahi said

    Most leaders which did run in the open list system did pretty well though, Maliki with 600 thousand votes, Allawawi with 400 thousand, Hashemi with 200 thousand, Jaafari did reasonably too with 100 thousand (but his list was much more fragmented, in SLA Maliki takes all the votes), Nawshirwan Mustafa was by far the highest Kurd with 90 thousand and Ali Bapir with 50 thousand votes beat all the KDP’s candidates in their stronghold Arbil, al-Nujayfi took 275 thousand and al-Issawi 80 thousand, al-Samaraei got only 9 thousand but since his list did poorly that isn’t that bad, he atleast came first place, the Iraqi Islamic Party’s leader Usama al-Tikriti came second to some other guy in his list though, but most elected Tawafuq members had around ~10,000 votes. The only real embarresment I see is Adil Abd al-Mahdi being outvoted by Bahaa al-Aaraji, Ahmad Challabi wasn’t gonna do well anyway, remember how list list did in 2005, atleast this time he got elected…
    The only particulary bad case I think, was al-Bolani with only 3,900 votes losing his seat. But that was more down to his list losing out in general than himsels doing badly.

    BTW, I know Abdel Aziz al-Hakim ran in 2005 but didn’t he decide to give his seat to someone else, because he didn’t want to go to parliament himself?

  19. Reidar Visser said

    At least technically, Hakim remained a deputy until his death in August 2009 as far as I know. He was also the head of the UIA parliamentary bloc.

    As we discussed earlier, Anizi’s failure was probably also quite embarrassing. He is formally the head of Hizb al-Daawa (Tanzim al-Dakhil).

  20. Kermanshahi said

    True, but than his party failed, but many of these leaders let their parties run but didn’t run personally, because perhaps they are afraid of the open list system.

  21. Ali said

    I also saw Hayder Al-Mulla’s comments Faisal alluded to that Iraqiya will withdraw from the political process if they are not included in the government. I’m not too sure how serious they are about this threat and to what extent it represents their leadership but it reveals a great level of political immaturity if they think getting just over a quarter of seats gives them a god-given right to the premiership or to inclusion in the government, when other lists can form a viable majority without them. The same media reports in Alsumaria said that they would make the new government unable to leave the Green Zone, which sounded like a threat to take up arms again.

  22. Rizgar Ali said

    Hello Reidar, a bit late this comment but how do you rate Fuad Masum of the PUK? Is he one of the better or worse Kurds operating in Baghdad politics?

  23. Reidar Visser said

    Rizgar Ali, apologies, I try to avoid internal Kurdish politics since I have no language capability in Kurdish and I do not know enough about his dealings with Baghdad to pass any kind of judgment.

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