Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for December 13th, 2012

Iraq Adopts the Sainte-Lague Method for Its Election Law

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 13 December 2012 12:11

Until recently, a major problem regarding the forthcoming (April 2013) Iraqi local elections was a ruling by the federal supreme court which had deemed the current election law unconstitutional for its seat distribution formula.

Previous revisions had failed to deal with the problem, but today it was solved. The Iraqi parliament voted to adopt changes to the seat distribution formula, taking it from a variant of the largest remainder principle to a formula that gives somewhat better hope for smaller parties: The Sainte-Lague method. The differences between the two systems had been accentuated under the former arrangement since only parties that had already won seats had the chance to win the “leftover” seats following the initial distribution. Sainte Lague is a method which is common in Scandinavia and Germany and several other countries.

Hopefully, this latest change will not only satisfy the Iraqi federal supreme court, but also provide some better chances for smaller parties to gain representation come election time in April next year. A major problem in past Iraqi elections has been the large number of wasted votes cast for parties that fell just short of the thresholds for winning seats.

Meanwhile, there are conflicting reports regarding the withdrawal of the bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki from the session today just after the passage of the election law amendments. Some sources claim it had to do with unhappiness with the new election law; others claim it had to do with the next item on the parliamentary agenda – the contested federal supreme court bill. It will be interesting to see which explanation is correct. It seems logical that a big party should dislike a change for better representation, although the call for a change by Maliki’s friends at the supreme court had been quite clear. On the other hand, if rumours that State of Law wanted to go further with Islamizing the federal supreme court are true (some sources claim it insisted on a stronger clerical veto), it would mean a strengthening of the religious tendency that Maliki specifically sought to downplay in the last local elections in 2009. Whichever interpretation is correct, following the initial approval of political entities, the process of joining parties into coalitions for the April elections is now slowly beginning to get underway and will likely provide the best answers about the overall direction of Iraqi politics.


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