Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for November 1st, 2011

Iraqi Parliamentary Attendance Data Are Bogus

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 18:40

On paper it looks all fine. A record of Iraq’s parliamentary attendance figures is regularly published, along with the names of deputies who are absent from parliamentary sessions.  A separate non-governmental organisation keeps track of those numbers and pegs the attendance figure to entries for individual deputies, making it possible to check the attendance of any of the 325 deputies in parliament. The parliamentary bylaws say the parliamentary presidency can issue a written warning to deputies that are absent 5 times in a row or 10 times during the course of the legislative year.

There is only one problem: The numbers are false. A systematic correlation of parliamentary records and attendance information linked to individuals shows that only a fraction of those absent are actually accounted for in the official record. Here is a quick rundown of gross attendance figures and the numbers of absentees actually identified by name for the past months:

Date Deputies present Registered absentees Other absentees
19 June 165 3 157
29 June 200 3 122
30 June 175 2 148
2 July 190 3 132
4 July 177 5 143
12 July 174 4 147
16 July 164 5 156
18 July 167 7 151
26 July 181 3 141
28 July 245 11 69
30 July 183 9 133
1 August 184 6 135
9 August 164 5 156
11 August 167 5 153
13 August 187 5 133
14 August 165 15 145
15 August 164 8 153
16 August 227 6 92
17 August 165 5 155
18 August 164 6 155
6 September 200 7 118
8 September 173 14 138
10 September 183 9 133
12 September 181 12 132
20 September 221 8 96

 

A possible explanation for the huge discrepancies can be found in the bylaws, where a distinction is made between “legitimate” absence (apparently for health reasons or if a deputy is on business representing the parliament elsewhere) and other forms of absences. Quite possibly, the absentees identified by name are the few who had such legitimate absences.

The problem, of course, has to do with all the others, non-legitimate – and non-registered – absentees. Just look at the huge numbers! The whole oversight system of checks and balances loses its meaning unless those names get published too. Until they are in the public domain, there is no real transparency in the Iraqi parliament – and it is also more difficult to analyse the political dynamics behind votes in parliament, since voting is usually done anonymously.

In short, here is yet another reason why Iraq cannot be considered a model democracy for the emerging “new Middle East”.

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