Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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”.

12 Responses to “Iraqi Parliamentary Attendance Data Are Bogus”

  1. Observer said

    good one Reidar.

    recall that Maliki offered Iraq’s help to Libyans… 😀

  2. Reidar Visser said

    I think he even said “a number of countries” were looking to Iraq for advice on democracy and transitional issues. I don’t think he specified those countries.

  3. Kermanshahi said

    Problem for US is they have no democratic allies with good human rights records in the Middle East, but they can hardly call Saudi Arabia a model for Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, but they gotta find a poster child for pro-Americanism somewhere, so for a while they were using al-Maliki and Iraq, but Iraq doesn’t have a very good reputation and these parliamentary attendences are least of the reasons why other country’s don’t want to be like Iraq and al-Maliki doesn’t seem to be pro-American enough, anymore. Now he may fancy himself as a model for all other Arab leaders but no-one else does and at the moment the puppet US leaders are trying to prop up as an example for other leaders and a model for democracy is Erdogan, who is even more authoritarian than al-Maliki and holds more political prisoners than anyone, but atleast has done a better attempt at looking democratic.

  4. Santana said

    Actually, many Countries looking to become democratic will ask Iraq for help…..they wanna make sure they avoid EVERYTHING the Iraqis did and not miss a thing! LOL…..

  5. Observer said
    فلقد كشفت شركة أميركية عن ان انظمة للمراقبة والتنصت على الانترنت كانت قد بيعت الى وزارة الاتصالات العراقية يتم استخدامها اليوم من قبل النظام السوري. فضيحة مزدوجة بامتياز. فحكومتنا التي كانت تعيب على سوريا وتحملها عار تصدير القتلة لشعبنا عبر الحدود صارت تستورد بمالنا العراقي وتصدر لسوريا مجانا ما يعينها على خنق حرية شعبها

    i am not sure about the voracity of Al Mada as it has been known for exaggeration before – so I will take it with a grain of salt until confirmed by other sources. But that is one the many lessons that Iraq can offer to wanabe Islamic parties who are on the rise to replace the former despots.

  6. M said

    If these figures are accurate then the stats are as follows:
    1) minimum: 50.46%
    2) maximim: 78.38%
    3) mean: 53.96%
    4) mode: 50.46%
    5) median 54.15%

    So on average: it is slightely over 50% but wonder what the rate is in other new democracies, post-conflict democracies or proportional representation democracies to actually make sense of the figures before we “export” our democracy model! I can say one thing though: since they hardly produce anything in these session, they need to justify their salaries – especially if they dont attend town-hall meetings with their constituents…

  7. Reidar Visser said

    The agenda for tomorrow’s special session of parliament, called for by the Sadrists, has now been officially published. It is mostly about Iraqi sovereignty, next year’s budget and violations of Iraq’s borders (and violations of others’ borders from bases in Iraqi territory!) – very general discussion issues…

    اولاً : قــــراءة آيـــــات مــــن القـــــران الكريـــــم.
    ثانياً:مناقشة موضوع سيادة العراق وجلاء قوات الاحتلال.
    ثالثاً: استضافة السيد وزير المالية لمناقشة أبواب هامة في قانون الموازنة العامة لعام 2012.
    رابعاً:مناقشة الاعتداءات الخارجية على الاراضي العراقية والاعتداءات التي تنطلق من الاراضي العراقية على دول الجوار .

    We’ll see how many deputies elect to show up – and how many absentees actually get registered by name.

  8. So the speaker is suing one of the MPs! –
    The speaker got a bit of a grilling on the BBC when he was in the UK – re. some dodgy financial matters.
    Likely to lead anywhere?

    (sorry that this is not strictly relevant to your post)

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Naseem, no problem, we’ve had far more serious derailments before. The Nujayfi-Fatlawi dispute goes back some time. I guess one of its critical aspects is that it could potentially once more pit State of Law and their allies in the judiciary on the one hand against Iraqiyya on the other. Not a good omen.

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Today’s extraordinary parliament session was just cancelled for a lack of quorum. Press reports say only 90 out of 325 deputies attended. 25 out of the 65 signatories to the petition calling for the session were among those absent.

  11. bks said

    But why don’t they show up for the sessions? Is it boredom, a political statement, fear, laziness or what?


  12. Santana said

    BKS- right now it is close to Eid, many are at Haj….plus many of these Parliamentary members don’t wanna be there to have to vote on issues that their leaders are still debating, arguing or bartering with other Bloc leaders so unless they are told to vote a certain way they don’t wanna be there and put on the spot…it’s not like the members are allowed to make their own decisions…it’s a top down process all the way (crap rolls downhill) …..let’s see…other reasons?…well, the paychecks are still not affected by attendence even though there is a push to penalize the “no-shows” ….by the way- in the U.S many mafia members have “no-show” Union jobs so maybe the Corleonis and Gambinos are the guiding light for some Iraqis….LOL…..

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