Monday, December 7, 2009

Iraqi Parliament Passes Election Law – Again

Just before midnight on December 6, 2009 Iraq’s parliament passed a second draft of the election law. The new legislation mixes versions of the original law and the amended version, and seems to be headed for confirmation by the Presidential Council.

The first version was passed on November 8, and used statistics from 2009 provided by the Ministry of Trade to determine how many seats were up for grabs in each province. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi vetoed the bill saying that more seats should be made available to Iraq’s two million refugees, many of whom are Sunnis, which is Hashemi’s constituency. The Kurdish Alliance took advantage of the veto to amend the law so that it used 2005 numbers instead, which increased the number of seats available to the three Kurdish provinces, while reducing seats in eight other governorates. That was heading for another veto by Hashemi until the recent compromise came about.

The new election bill uses parts of both the original and amended election laws. First the Kurds will get three extra seats, second refugees will be counted as part of their home provinces, and third every governorate will get an increase in seats.

The Kurds were still holding out for more, but calls from President Barak Obama and Vice President Joe Biden convinced them to vote for the legislation. In turn, the U.S. promised that there would be a national census in 2010, and that the status of the disputed territories would be resolved. The former has already started, and needs no American help. However little has happened with the disputed areas since the U.S. invasion in 2003. A referendum was supposed to be held at the end of 2007 to determine their future, but that was delayed and then abandoned. The United Nations also offered reports on each disputed territory, but that led nowhere. The issue remains another intractable one in Iraqi politics.

For now, Iraqis can rejoice that elections are finally moving forward. They are still going to happen past the January 31, 2010 deadline set by the constitution. February or March are being mentioned as new dates. The problem is the current government’s term expires in March, and it’s predicted that it will take the major parties several months to put together a new one. That means some kind of caretaker regime will have to be created in the meantime, which will open up a whole other can of constitutional worms showing that when one issue is resolved in Iraq, there is always another one in the wings.

Seat Distribution 2005 Election Law vs. 2010 Election Law
Anbar 9 vs 14
Babil 11 vs 16
Baghdad 59 vs 68
Basra: 18 vs 24
Dhi Qar: 12 vs 18
Diyala 10 vs 13
Dohuk 7 vs 10
Irbil 13 vs 14
Karbala 6 vs 10
Maysan: 7 vs 10
Muthanna 5 vs 7
Najaf 8 vs 12
Ninewa 19 vs 31
Qadisiyah 7 vs 11
Salahaddin 8 vs 12
Sulaymaniya 15 vs 17
Tamim 9 vs 12
Wasit 8 vs 11
Compensatory Seats 45 vs 15
TOTAL: 275 vs 325


International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09

Parker, Ned and Salman, Raheem, “Iraq lawmakers approve election law,” Los Angeles Times, 12/7/09

Visser, Reidar, “No Second Veto: The Election Law is Approved by Tariq al-Hashemi and the Iraqi Presidency,”, 12/6/09

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