On September 12, 2009 Iraq’s cabinet sent a draft election law to the Iraqi parliament for the January 2010 balloting. The new law is a revision of the 2005 bill with one major change it includes an open list voting system. In the 2005 elections Iraq had a closed list where voters only got to choose from parties and coalitions. Party bosses selected the actual politicians. In the 2009 provincial elections, Iraq switched to an open list where people were allowed to vote for either lists or candidates. The one major drawback of the new procedure was that if one politician received a large number of votes, they could only earn one seat, and the rest were considered wasted ballots. That occurred this year when independent Shiite Yousef al-Habboubi won the vote in Karbala with 17% compared to 8% for the second and third place finishers, but because he ran alone only got one seat out of 27. Afterward, he had to settle for deputy governor as the larger parties put together the ruling coalition and took the top positions in the province.
Arguments over a closed or open list have also been caught up in the larger political struggle in Iraq between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his detractors. The new Iraqi National Alliance made up of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Sadrists, and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari have been pushing for a closed list because it benefits the large parties, while the Prime Minister supports an open list. This rivalry will now play out in parliament as it discusses the draft election law.
Najm, Hayder, “al-maliki faces shia election threat,” Niqash, 9/15/09
Reuters, “Iraq cabinet approves draft elections law,” 9/12/09
Rubin, Alissa, "Dark horse wins over one Iraqi city: Karbala," International Herald Tribune, 2/6/09
Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009