Iraq’s 2010 parliamentary election law was finally passed by the legislature on November 8, 2009. It was then sent to the Presidential Council that consists of President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi and Vice President Tarqi al-Hashemi for ratification. It was expected that they would immediately sign the bill into law as it was originally supposed to be done in October. Instead, the legislation has run into more and more problems. As reported before, President Talabani and Vice President Hashemi want the quota for seats given to minorities and refugees increased since that would help their chances in the election. That led to Hashemi to veto the bill, sending it back to parliament for revision. Now Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani is threatening a Kurdish boycott unless the number of seats up for grabs in each province is changed.
President Barzani recently told the press that the three Kurdish provinces of Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniya would boycott the 2010 national elections unless more seats are allotted to the region. The number of members in parliament is going to be increased from 275 to 323 next year, and those will be determined by the voting in each of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. The total is based upon numbers derived from the Ministry of Trade’s food ration card system. For every 100,000 people in a province, one seat is to be placed up for election. There are also compensatory and quota seats set aside for minorities, refugees, and smaller parties that do well nationally, but not good enough in the provinces to earn a seat.
Barzani complained that the number of seats increased for several Sunni Arab provinces, but hardly changed at all for the Kurdistan region. For example, Sulaymaniya got no seat increases from 2005 staying at 15, while Dohuk went from 7 to 9, and Irbil went from 13 to 14. In comparison, Ninewa’s seats are going to go from 19 in 2005 to 31 in 2010, and Anbar will go from 9 to 14. In, fact every province, except for Sulaymaniya will see some sort of increase ranging from 1 to 12 seats, with an average of 4.1. According to Norwegian Iraq specialist Reidar Visser, the lack of increases for the KRG reflects the fact that their numbers were believed to be inflated in 2005, while the Sunni areas were not well represented before. The Kurdish Alliance in parliament has gone as far as to threaten a lawsuit against the Trade Ministry, alleging that it is manipulating its numbers.
Parliamentary Seats By Province 2005 vs 2010
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 9
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 8 vs 11
Salahaddin 8 vs 12
Sulaymaniya 15 vs 15
Tamim 9 vs 12
Wasit 8 vs 11
The Kurdish Alliance and its allies the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) were the main reasons why the election bill was not passed on time. Their demands over voting in Tamim, the home of Kirkuk, and whether to use an open or closed list system, dragged out the discussion over the legislation for nearly a month after it was due. Now the Kurds are threatening the entire process by mentioning a boycott. They not only want the quota for minorities increased, something they should’ve worked out when the bill was under debate, but now also want the number of seats up for grabs to be redistributed to help Kurdistan. Representation is important in any election and country, but the way the Kurds are dealing with this piece of legislation is not only frustrating the Iraqi public, which is already fed up with their politicians and government for not delivering on issues such as basic services and the passage of laws, but also increasing the growing anti-Kurdish sentiment within the Arab population. The reasons behind the Kurds’ tactics are three-fold. First, after the U.S. invasion, the Kurds were one of the largest and most well organized parties in the country, and were able to translate that into a greater proportion of power than they probably deserved vis a vis the Arab majority. They are therefore use to getting their way. Second, the Kurds, along with all the other large political parties see politics in zero sum terms, which makes it hard for them to compromise on any meaningful issue. Third, with the ascendancy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the central government, the Kurds are pushing for as much power as they can get out of fear that Baghdad will once again attempt to take away their rights or subjugate them like what happened under Saddam. All of those factors together, make it extremely difficult to get anything through Iraq’s legislative process, and the 2010 election law is just the latest example.
Agence France Presse, “Iraq’s January vote placed in doubt by presidency,” 11/16/09
AK News, “Kurdish Presidency warn to boycott parliamentary polls,” 11/17/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “KA threatens to sue Trade Ministry,” 11/16/09
- “Kurdistan won’t participate in polls unless allocation mechanism is reconsidered,” 11/17/09
Lucas, Ryan, “Kurdish, Sunni demands may derail Iraqi elections,” Associated Press, 11/17/09
Najm, Hayder, “election law faces new challenges,” Niqash, 11/13/09
Santora, “Kurdish Legislators Threaten Boycott of Iraq Election,” New York Times, 11/17/09
Visser, Reidar, “The IHEC Publishes the Distribution of Governorate and Compensatory Seats,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/11/09