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.
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