Last minute law in Iraq
Dec 26, 2009
The electoral law that preoccupied Iraqi politicians for the last 8 months has finally been adopted.
After the Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al Hashimi vetoed the law a second time, with last minute arrangements the election law was passed unanimously by the Iraqi parliament and Tariq Al-Hashimi withdrew his. Hashim’s point of contention was the seats allocated for Iraqis who will vote from abroad and how the votes would be used. On the other hand, Kurdish deputies had also objected to the number of seats allocated to the three provinces where the Kurds are the majority in the north of Iraq.
However, the changes were made in another article instead of the articles which were contested as a result of negotiations, and this this created another problem for the law’s approval. As a result of negotiations the electoral law was reconsidered and adopted in parliament with last minute pressure from the United States. Two changes were made to the original law. First, the number of seats in the Iraqi Parliament was raised from 275 to 325 and Duhok and Sulaimaniya's number of seats were also raised. When 310 seats were distributed to the provinces (Baghdad: 68, Mosul: 31, Basra: 24, Zikar: 18, Sulaimaniya: 17, Babil: 16, Anbar: 14, Erbil: 14, Diyala: 13, Kirkuk: 12, Selahaddin: 12, Najaf: 12, Vasit: 11, Al-Qādisiyyah: 11, Meysan: 10, Duhok: 10, Karbala: 10, Musanna: 7), 15 seats were divided among the minorities who live in Iraq and Iraqis who live in abroad.
While the main point of Hashim’s objection was the number of seats allocated to Iraqis abroad, arrangements were made for how the Iraqi immigrants will use the votes. Previously, Iraqis abroad were to vote for the general lists and according a proportional distribution of seats to the winning parties was planned.
However, with the new arrangements the vote of each Iraqi abroad is valid for the province where they are registered. In other words, a Mosul resident who lives in abroad may not vote Iraq’s general lists, but only for Mosul candidate lists. On the other hand, the same rule is valid for Iraqis in Iraq.
For example, a person who is registered in Kirkuk, but lives in Mosul, must vote in the Kirkuk elections. The list of Iyad Allawi, which expected to win many votes from Iraqis living abroad, will benefit here.
Allawi and Salih Mutlak, Tarik El-Hashimi, leading Sunni leaders such as Osama Nuceyfi and the Iraqi Turkmen Front will stand for elections together.
At this point, the fact that Iraqis abroad can vote for their registered province is advantage for the Allawi’s list. This situation benefits the ITC, especially in Kirkuk. In the 2005 election, the votes of Turkmens abroad made no contribution to Turkmen candidates since their votes counted in Iraq generally.
However, in the current situation, Turkmens can vote in their registered province and will have an advantage in provinces where there is majority of Turkmens. In addition, a special provision has been made for the Christians in Iraq, allowing them to join a single list. Thus, Christians can take full advantage of the quota that allocated to them.
On the other hand, the fact that electoral registers will be based on the 2005 elections with the assumption of a 2.8% population increase may cause many mistakes.
Injustice and irregularities in the 2005 elections were described by the United Nations above all, and many other organizations, but no intervention was made. At this point, taking into account the 2005 election registers, the inaccuracies in voter records and population will have been adopted.
Although it has been said that the election registers will be reorganized, it is possible to modify voter records significantly.
It will not be wrong to say that these changes provide an advantage to Kurdish groups in particular. The last minute strategy that Kurdish groups used has given them a great advantage.
According to the amendments, the number of seats for Sulaimaniya was increased from 15 to 17 and for Duhok, from 9 to 10. However, the actual achievement is not these seats. It is political. Kurdish groups began to lose their crucial role in Iraq’s political balance and other groups began to oppose the Kurdish groups; however, they seem to have regained a central position in Iraq.
The Kurdish groups only attended the parliament meetings after a phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden to Massoud Barzani and long meetings. This caused U.S. to make concessions to the Kurdish groups again.
The Kurdish groups’ participation in subsequent parliamentary meetings allowed the quorum for a vote to be met. In addition, according to the Kurdish deputies’ statements, Barzani was assured that the Kirkuk issue will be resolved constitutionally and that the rights of the Kurds will not crushed.
Even if this guarantee is given orally, it can be interpreted as the victory of the Kurdish groups and a sign of their superiority over other groups in terms of political psychology.
On the other hand, it is clear that the elections in Kirkuk will favor the Kurdish groups. Despite the deadline for the 2005 election records, by directive of President Jalal Talabani, before the elections nearly 180 thousand new Kurdish voters in Kirkuk were added.
At this point, taking into account the electoral registrations of 2005, the records of voters are approved. On the other hand, none of the commissions that was established to solve the problem of Kirkuk could fulfill their duty, and the shift of Kurdish population by the Kurdish groups has been maintained.
This situation was simplified thanks to the majority of Kurdish groups in Kirkuk’s administration. Although there is a law in a separate article about Kirkuk, there is an assumption that there will be no difference between 2005 and current elections because the basis of the elections is the 2005 registers.
As a result, major steps have been made in Iraq with the adoption of this election law. This step also protects Iraq’s security position. The postponement of elections could lead to political tensions that would influence Iraq’s security situation and interfere with the U.S. withdrawal process.
Thus Obama and Biden’s pressure on Iraqi politicians can be understood. It can be said that while the capacity of the U.S. power and influence is being tested again, Hashim was trying to increase his decreasing popularity among Sunnis by giving the message, “I am your advocate,” to Iraq’s Sunnis. It is not be wrong to say that Kurdish groups are showing off their power by giving the message, “We are still the most important point,” and testing their weight in Iraqi politics.