The Iraqi Parliament Closes Down

October 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

The Iraqi Parliament Closes Down

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 12:58

Perhaps the most significant development in yesterday’s parliament session came towards the end: Parliament will be on holiday until 20 November.

That’s right: Despite continuing political stalemate, Iraqi lawmakers will not meet for another 6 weeks or so. Ostensibly, the reason for the long holiday is the fact that it coincides with the pilgrimage to Mecca in early November. It is expected that a large number of deputies will be out of the country.

One cannot help wonder, though, whether political expediency may have played a role in the decision. Asma al-Musawi, a Sadrist, reportedly said a request to the federal supreme court for extending the term had been rejected on constitutional grounds! That statement should arouse some serious incredulity since the constitution only stipulates that there shall be two parliamentary terms annually of altogether 8 months and that parliament can also extend its work for an additional 30 days if 50 members or the parliamentary speaker request it. As usual, there is a delay in the publication of the court ruling – if there actually is one, that is.

More likely, the will to call for such an extension was missing because the long holiday will fit the agenda of the biggest political parties perfectly. For Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his State of Law coalition it makes sense because they can continue to rule Iraq as a de facto minority government. For the secular Iraqiyya, the long holiday probably makes sense as well, not least since what they are able to do in terms of effective parliamentary opposition is limited anyway. Hence, they may well prefer to remain muttering on the sidelines.

This stalemate, or variations of it, is likely to continue until there is some kind of rapprochement between the two main factions. In this respect, one interesting development yesterday was the approval of a new electricity minister from the Karbuli bloc within Iraqiyya. It means that in terms of ministers, the factions of Iraqiyya outside the direct control of Ayyad Allawi at least technically speaking remain more integrated in the Maliki government than Allawi’s own Wifaq movement. Potentially, a future decision on the security ministries and the defence portfolio in particular might have a further impact on that relationship.

Still, with the upcoming holiday recess we are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the formation of the second Maliki government and still have no ministers of interior or defence approved by parliament. Maybe that is exactly the situation Maliki wants to have.

Iraqi parliament plans legislative revolution, abolishes almost 14,000 laws

April 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraqi parliament plans legislative revolution, abolishes almost 14,000 laws

niqash | Kholoud Ramzi | mon 04 apr 11

The Iraqi parliament wants to abolish almost 14,000 laws made by both the interim American rulers and former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime. But critics fear replacement legislation will take longer.Over the coming weeks the Legal Committee of the Iraqi parliament plans to repeal 82 orders issued by US diplomat Paul Bremer, the former presidential envoy to Iraq who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the American transitional government which ruled Iraq, between May 2003 and June 2004, when power was handed over to an Iraqi interim government.

The Iraqi parliament also plans to abolish around 13,500 orders issued by Saddam Hussein’s Revolutionary Command Council since the day the deposed leader’s Baath Party took power in July 1968.

Muhsin al-Sadoun, a member of the parliamentary legal committee, told NIQASH that, “the committee formed to study the laws and draft new ones will repeal all laws issued under [Bremer] the Civil Administrator in Iraq, and those issued by the dissolved Revolution Command Council.”

“It is shameful that Iraq is still applying these laws while it has a permanent Constitution in force and a consensus government in which all Iraqi components are represented,” al-Sadoun said.

Al-Sadoun explained that with the adoption of Iraq’s permanent Constitution in 2005 all decisions issued by the CPA and the Revolutionary Command Council had become null and void anyway. But, he said, “they are still applied in the [Iraqi] state departments because there were no new orders issued to replace them. This is causing lots of confusion.”

The parliamentary legal committee recently established a working group to examine these older laws and to draft replacements that will better address realities in the new Iraq.

According to local legal expert Yassin Atban, one of the biggest problems during the last few years was the “selective manner” in which the various laws were repealed.

Since his departure from Iraq in 2004 Bremer has been criticized, both in the US and abroad, for various laws he enacted while heading the CPA in Iraq. Commentators have suggested that some of Bremer’s legislation actually contributed to increased unrest in Iraq over the ensuing years.

One of these was the de-Baathification law, another was Bremer’s decision to completely demobilize the Iraqi army.

Members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath political party headed most of the country’s important institutions and included many of the country’s best educated and well connected elite. Many ordinary Iraqis were party members too, often simply because, for example, they would have had no prospects for career advancement if they were not. This meant that the wholesale de-Baathification of Iraq – the removal of all Baath party members from the public sector – resulted in tens of thousands of people losing their jobs and left many of the country’s institutions leaderless.

The demobilization of the Iraqi army left thousands more officers and soldiers unemployed. Many of these, angry at the new political situation, joined armed factions as well as al Qaeda and contributed further to the country’s turmoil.

Some of these decisions began to be reversed soon after the CPA handed over power to the Iraqis. In 2004, the interim Iraqi government headed by Iyad Allawi began to rebuild the Iraqi army, allowing hundreds of experienced officers to return to work.

Other reversals came later. In 2007 the Iraqi parliament dissolved the de-Baathification Commission, replacing it with a new Accountability and Justice Commission. Under the new procedures, the number of persons affected by de-Baathification laws was reduced to just 1,500 senior party members.

Not all of the laws that the CPA instituted were considered negative. Bremer also suspended the death penalty and came up with more liberal defamation laws, which related to media in Iraq. Civil society activists have described these as “worthy reforms”. However the Allawi interim government rescinded these too, cancelling the suspension of the death penalty and re-activating past defamation laws. The latter threatens journalists found guilty of the defamation of a political figure with capital punishment.

Additionally some of Bremer’s laws still remain in force today. One of these included legislation that increased the number of expert advisers to each state ministry from two to seven. Having more Iraqi interest groups represented among the advisers was supposed to democratize the flow of information to state decision makers. In reality though, observers say that the advisers, as representatives of different Iraqi groups, are not impartial and act more like partisan lobbyists on a government salary.

As legal expert Atban explained: “Iraq’s parliament should have examined these laws [and] repealed or amended them before implementing the provisions of the current permanent constitution.” Abolishing all of these laws at once, he noted, “requires intensive efforts to find new draft legislation.”

Unless it decides to enact fewer laws than the close to 14,000 it is repealing, the Iraqi parliament will need some time to achieve this. And time, according to critics, is something the parliament does not have a lot of.

Othman al-Juhaishi, a member of parliament for the Iraqiya List, the political coalition that won the most number of seats in last year’s election, has campaigned to end the spring parliamentary holiday which is supposed to start mid-April. Al-Juhaishi, who has organized a petition on the matter for Iraqi members of parliament to sign, says there is just no time for the politicians to take a break. “The conditions in the country do not allow the Parliament to stop convening for two months,” he said, “especially in light of growing popular unrest and the heavy legislative tasks waiting to be addressed.”

He told NIQASH that, “the repeal of Bremer’s, and the dissolved Revolutionary Command Council’s, orders and the drafting of new ones will require months. The spring holidays of parliament will further delay these endeavours.”

Al-Juhaishi pointed out that the Iraqi parliament has a full work load. In addition to abolishing and replacing the former laws, the Parliament is scheduled to issue new laws on such subjects as political parties, oil and gas, the protection of journalists, retired security forces and the Integrity Commission. It is also supposed to follow up on ongoing demonstrations and various corruption cases.

Al-Juhaishi said that cancelling the spring holiday would be in the best interests of the populace and that the decision “should be made to honour the Iraqi people.”

According to members of the parliamentary legal committee, the spring holiday is not too worrying. They are optimistic about finalizing the new laws – including replacements for Bremer’s laws – within four weeks. However the endorsement of any replacement laws might be postponed until next autumn if Parliament decided that MPs should enjoy their full holidays.

Iraq: Parliament Agrees on Committees, But Not on Their Leaders, by Reidar Visser

January 18, 2011 at 2:33 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

Parliament Agrees on Committees, But Not on Their Leaders

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 17 January 2011 16:11

The Iraqi parliament today decided the membership of 26 parliamentary committees. Except that due to disagreements among party leaders they could not decide on who should head the committees, meaning they will probably remain inoperative or at least unable to make major decisions for yet some time. So on top of the partial government without security ministries, vice presidents that aren’t really vice presidents, and a parliament without updated bylaws and with a handful of deputies that clearly violate the constitutional requirements, we today get two dozen headless committees. Bravo!

Continue Reading Iraq: Parliament Agrees on Committees, But Not on Their Leaders, by Reidar Visser…

Iraq: Musa in the Council of Component Representatives, by Reidar Visser

January 11, 2011 at 2:13 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
Musa in the Council of Component Representatives

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 9 January 2011 16:24

During his visit to Baghdad over the weekend, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Musa, has met with fake vice presidents and deputies who have stolen their seats in the Iraqi parliament. In this way, just like the rest of the international community, the Arab League is contributing to the further erosion of the Iraqi state at the time when it should have done the opposite.

Salim al-Jibburi of Tawafuq/Wasat

Today’s session in the Iraqi parliament just highlighted these unfortunate tendencies. With nauseating predictability, Musa was greeted by a procession of three speakers supposedly representing Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish interests, followed by a Christian. The only exceptions to the predictable pattern were the contributions from Tawafuq and Gorran, probably meant as consolation prizes for having been largely shut out of the recently-formed partial government. Salim al-Jibburi of Tawafuq, in particular, must have felt he was on borrowed time, since he recently, in an unconstitutional fashion, became the fourteenth member of parliament from Diyala, thereby snatching one seat from Salahaddin’s quota of 12.

After the niceties had been completed, parliament also attended to some ordinary business. Abdallah Hasan Rashid al-Jibburi was sworn in as member of parliament for Iraqiyya to take the place of Salah Muzahim Darwish who recently became a minister. The change, which was constitutional since both were candidates for Iraqiyya in Diyala (though it is thought Muzahim was originally with Salih al-Mutlak whereas Jibburi has been reported as belonging to the Allawi faction), is interesting because the new member earlier got excluded from the seat he won with most votes in Diyala after Maliki’s State of Law in May 2010 complained that he had been previously convicted and hence unqualified to become a deputy. Possibly some more extrajudicial ad hoc reconciliation has been going on?

The parliament also passed the law on a deputy or more for the president. No mention of the presidency council there, for sure. The law also confirms that the deputies have no other power than whatever the president himself delegates from his own, largely ceremonial prerogatives. We will still have to wait a little more before parliament confirms the maximum three deputies that the president can select, though it is widely expected that he will settle for Adel Abd al-Mahi of ISCI, Tareq al-Hashemi of Iraqiyya and Khudayr al-Khuzai of Daawa (Tanzim al-Iraq), with a Turkmen representative who ran on the National Alliance ticket today promising a “popular revolution” unless a Turkmen is given a seat! Alchemist of the revolution indeed.

At a time when most of the Iraqi parliament is concerned with being Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, minorites, and women, it is gratifying to find at least some positive exceptions. Gorran’s representative Latif al-Shaykh Mustafa recently pointed out that the alleged promise by Maliki to extend veto powers to the president as part of the Kurdish 19 points is in fact unconstitutional. (It should be added that there are absolutely no signs that Maliki has any intention to keep the promise, since there is no constitutional way for him to do so.) Similarly, Jawad Kazim al-Buzuni of Daawa (Tanzim al-Iraq) has attacked the intention of Talabani to create three presidential deputies, which he says is superfluous and a waste of government money since the presidency has no real power and responsibilities beyond ceremonial functions anyway. Maha al-Duri, a female Sadrist, has called for urgent decreases in the salaries of the “three presidents” (Maliki, Nujayfi, Talabani) and presumably their deputies also.

Actions that challenge the muhasasa (quota) logic of the presidential deputies and the recent backroom deals on replacement deputies are welcome steps towards a more mature form of politics in Iraq. For now, though, the Iraqi parliament remains a council for self-proclaimed component representatives (majlis nawwab al-mukawwinat or مجلس نواب  المكونات ) rather than a national parliament as such.

Additional comment by Reidar Visser:

With respect to Talabani and the Turkmens it seems to me an obvious strategy for someone who wants to uphold the muhasasa principle, by enticing the Turkmens to join the party. It is pretty cheap, too: For a worthless vice-presidency Turkmens currently participating in Iraqiyya and/or State of Law would renounce participation in alliances that at least at times try to be national and ideological in outlook.

Replacement Chaos in the Iraqi Parliament, by Reidar Visser

December 30, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 30 December 2010 20:18

The announcement of the partial Maliki II government on 21 December has transformed Iraqi politics into something of a chaotic construction site. As of today, no one knows who will be in government or how many ministers will eventually be named.

Additionally, due to the stream of deputies hastily leaving parliament in search of greener pastures in the executive branch of government, no one any longer has a complete list of deputies. Based on lists of new ministers and old deputies it is clear that at least 20 of the 325 deputies in Iraqi parliament will need replacement, probably with more to come as ministries held as deputyships by existing ministers will get distributed. As of today, the Kurds have yet to name any replacements (and have also yet to name several of their ministers), and Iraqiyya has apparently named only around half of their 7 replacements. Some glaring errors in the way the names of new deputies have been rendered in official statements from the Iraqi parliament also make analysis of the information released so far somewhat problematic.

Still, around a dozen of the replacements can be identified with reasonable certainty, as indicated in the table below.

To see the table please click on:

Continue Reading Replacement Chaos in the Iraqi Parliament, by Reidar Visser…

Sunni Arabs Return to Parliament but Shiite-Kurdish Ascendancy Holds: Ahmadinejad Congratulates his Candidate, al-Maliki

November 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

Sunni Arabs Return to Parliament but Shiite-Kurdish Ascendancy Holds: Ahmadinejad Congratulates his Candidate, al-Maliki

Posted on November 14, 2010 by Juan Cole

Al-Hayat writing in Arabic reports on Saturday’s successful parliamentary session in Baghdad, which was joined by the Iraqiya Party, for which most Sunni Arabs had voted. The parliament had elected Jalal Talabani of the Kurdistan Alliance as president and has put in Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiya as speaker of parliament.

Apparently Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi had hoped as late as early Thursday that he could find a higher post for his party. He had wanted to be president, and the Obama administration had apparently put enormous pressure on the Kurds to step aside and allow an Allawi presidency. Allawi, a secular ex-Baathist from a Shiite background, had emerged as leader of what was largely a Sunni bloc in parliament, with 91 seats out of 325. If Allawi could not get the presidency, he plumped for an alternating prime ministership, with himself first, for 8 months, after which incumbent al-Maliki could return to the post.

Continue Reading Sunni Arabs Return to Parliament but Shiite-Kurdish Ascendancy Holds: Ahmadinejad Congratulates his Candidate, al-Maliki…

The Great Fudge in Parliament, by Reidar Visser

November 13, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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The Turkmen deputies broke away from their ideological blocs to express demands for Turkmen positions in the government.

The Great Fudge in Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 13 November 2010 19:37

This is essentially a non-story, but since it will be exploited by ignorant world leaders rushing to congratulate the Iraqis on their new wonderful “power-sharing arrangements”, a few words are in order.

Basically, nothing significant happened at today’s session of the Iraqi parliament. Yes, there was a majority vote expressing “support” for the “Barzani initiative” and the agreements that led to the nomination of Maliki for a second term. But then again, who doesn’t “support the Barzani initiative”? The obvious problem here is that declarations of support are not what matter here. Laws are what matter. That is the modus operandi of the parliament, and if the intention is to succeed with the “power-sharing” strategy, then the Iraqiyya coalition needs to make sure that the relevant legislation for their projected wing of the Iraqi government – the national council for strategic policies  – comes into existence sooner rather than later (some refer to “high policies” instead, just to indicate how much this is just fiction right now).

Continue Reading The Great Fudge in Parliament, by Reidar Visser…

The Iraqi Parliament Opens, and Stays Open

June 15, 2010 at 8:23 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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The Iraqi Parliament Opens, and Stays Open

By Reidar Visser (

14 June 2010


A good indication of the state of affairs of Iraqi politics is the absence of a single, official list of the 325 deputies that were supposed to be present at today’s opening of the second Iraqi parliament after the adoption of the new constitution in 2005. True, there is a list of new deputies at the parliament website, but it is not the updated list after all the changes to the certification of candidates that took place in April and May. Rather, these are just copies of the provisional results released by the Iraqi election commission (IHEC) in late March, and as such they contain several errors. Most notably, they erroneously list two Iraqiyya deputies in Diyala, Abdallah al-Jibburi and Najm al-Harbi, who have been disqualified for legal reasons (criminal cases) and replaced by others from their list (reportedly Muhammad Uthman al-Khalidi and Hassan Sulayman al-Bayati of the Nujayfi bloc and the Turkmen front within Iraqiyya respectively). Similarly, Ibrahim al-Mutlak of Iraqiyya does not appear in the list for Baghdad even though his de-Baathification exclusion was eventually overturned. In fact, the only up-to-date document that appears on the website of the parliament is the list of the 7 compensation seats, which correctly indicates Jabir al-Jabiri of Anbar as the replacement for Iraqiyya candidate Umar Abd al-Sattar (who was also disqualified for legal reasons unrelated to de-Baathification). Jabiri has previously worked as an advisor to Rafi al-Eisawi, the deputy premier.

The reason there is no single list of winners and the votes they got is that the result in the end got stitched up, with absolutely no consistency: For example, some excluded candidates lost their votes but others did not. In the end IHEC apparently gave up presenting a true “final result” including individual votes (but it did make a press announcement to the effect that it had “furnished parliament with information about the name of the eldest seat winner” who should chair the first meeting: Bravo!) It should come as no surprise, therefore, that a similarly lax approach characterised the first meeting of parliament today. In theory, the procedure to be adopted is perfectly clear: Parliament should have elected a speaker today and a president within a month; he, in turn, would be supposed to charge the candidate of the biggest bloc with forming the next government. But just like in 2006, many Iraqi politicians prefer to seek a single package for all these appointments, and since no consensus is in sight anytime soon they simply declared that the first meeting would remain open (in 2006 it lasted for more than 40 days), thereby circumventing such nuisances as constitutionally mandated timelines. Also, the meeting was eventually chaired by Fuad Masum of the Kurdistan list rather than Hassan al-Alawi of Iraqiyya who excused himself for health reasons; in order to avoid a too overt breach of constitutionality, deputies that remain members of the present Maliki government were exempted from the parliamentary oath – to avoid a violation of the principle of division of power!

The timeline is not the only aspect of the constitution that some parties want do dispense with. The recent merger between the two Shiite-led alliances, State of Law (SLA) and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) into a super-alliance known as the “National Alliance” has already created heated debate about the interpretation of the term “biggest bloc” in article 76 on the right to form the government, since a restrictive interpretation based on electoral entities would give priority to the secular Iraqiyya (91 seats), whereas a more elastic reading would allow post-election bloc formation and thereby create an opportunity for the new sectarian Shiite super-alliance (89+70 seats). It is however noteworthy that continued quarrelling inside the new Shiite bloc has led some of them to propose a number of unconstitutional measures in order to impose their particular candidate for premier. In particular, the second biggest Shiite component, INA, has suggested that article 76 of the constitution be further diluted. According to this innovation, the Shiite alliance would obtain priority based on a claim to status as the “biggest”, but instead of following the constitutional procedure of presenting a single prime ministerial candidate to parliament, INA has suggested entering parliament with multiple would-be premiers, whose final ranking would be decided either by the assembly or a roundtable of the winning entities.

This in turn reflects the political paradox of the new Iraqi assembly. To some, the proposal by INA will no doubt come across as superficially constructive and even “moderate”, since it would involve other blocs in selecting the premier: The Obama administration and the UN agency in Iraq, UNAMI, seem particularly fond of this kind of approach. A closer look, however, reveals that this is in fact a deliberate attempt by a medium-sized entity to outmanoeuvre the two biggest winning entities and their popular prime ministerial candidates: Iraqiyya headed by Ayad Allawi (91 seats) and SLA headed by Nuri al-Maliki (89 seats). In brief, INA fears that Maliki will seek to dominate the internal Shiite nomination process (where he is backed by a more coherent leadership group than INA which at least can block others even if they cannot impose Maliki), whereas INA is only interested in government participation by Iraqiyya as token “Sunni” representation. As such, this is a continuation of the campaign initiated by pro-Iranian forces in 2009 to attack what they saw as the biggest threat against Iranian hegemony in Iraq: The tentative autonomy of Nuri al-Maliki and the nationalist agenda of Ayad Allawi, both of which threatened to upset the formula of ethno-sectarian power-sharing favoured by Iran in which a broad Shiite coalition would always dominate.

The paradox is of course that Allawi and Maliki could have easily escaped the attempt by INA to unconstitutionally dethrone both of them from the prime ministerial position by simply making friends with each other. Under that scenario, they could form a viable, strong and reasonably coherent centralist and anti-federal government with a backing of 180 deputies – with no need to placate centrifugal forces such as the two biggest Kurdish parties, ISCI and Iran, and with far better prospects of actually getting a parliamentary speaker and president elected than those ambitious power-sharing visions that aim at a majority of more than 200 (just 163 is in fact needed to win a run-off; not 216 or two-thirds which is only an aspirational goal) and moreover intend to try to meet Kurdish demands that are likely to prove impossible. Interestingly, there are signs that this idea is finally gaining some traction, with sudden meetings between Allawi and Maliki just as the new Shiite alliance declared its new name, and with a legal advisor close to Maliki, Tariq Harb, even suggesting that this kind of alliance would be the most logical. At the same time, INA websites keep publishing slander about Maliki and some of his allies like Khalid al-Atiyya, again suggesting limits to their new marriage and its ability to survive in the real world. Already today, there was reportedly a meeting between the “bloc leaders” of the parliament prior to the gathering of the assembly itself, and unless the Shiites were represented by a single leader at that meeting they did in fact already violate their claim to constitute the biggest bloc!

In short, the debate about the next Iraqi government remains focused on procedure and hasn’t even begun touching real issues such as ministerial appointments and a political programme. Unless Allawi and Maliki should suddenly discover the advantages of a bilateral pact, it is likely to remain like that for some time, with a protracted debate about a premier candidate destined to run its course inside the new Shiite alliance for some time. So far, the new creation has not even been able to agree on a bloc leader (which is a requirement under the bylaws of the Iraqi parliament), and with a 80% consensus target for any premier candidate it may take a while before a decision is reached or a collapse in negotiations is recognised. The longer this process takes, the more fictitious will the claim to status as the “biggest bloc” become, and it is not unlikely that the Kurds and/or Maliki will gradually regain an interest in Iraqiyya as a realistic coalition partner. Only at that point can a real discussion about the fundamentals of the next Iraqi government begin.

Proportional Representation Dispute in Iraq: Parliament Adjourns without Adopting an Election Law for 2010

July 29, 2009 at 7:42 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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By Reidar Visser (

28 July 2009

Instead of culminating in the grand finale that some had expected after a one-month extension, the first term of the Iraqi parliament in 2009 simply fizzled out. Yesterday, the national assembly adjourned even a couple of days before it was supposed to, and it is now not expected to reconvene until 8 September at the earliest, and possibly not until after Ramadan ends, on 19 September.

The list of unfinished business is as long as ever, but one item has a particular urgency, in theory at least: the adoption of the election system that will govern next year’s parliamentary elections, now scheduled for 16 January 2010. Whereas the previous election law of 2005 may still be used in case everything else should fail, there appears to be a strong desire, at least among the Iraqi public and the opposition parties, to do something about the electoral system in order that the elections results may better reflect public opinion. Many thought the provincial elections law used for the January 2009 elections was a step in the right direction, but the huge proportion of “wasted votes” in those elections (i.e. votes that were cast for candidates that did not obtain representation) means that the issue of system reform has remained on the agenda.

Continue Reading Proportional Representation Dispute in Iraq: Parliament Adjourns without Adopting an Election Law for 2010…

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