The Story of the Elections: Iraq VS the U.S.


Following the recent November elections here in the US, I came to understand how different the US electoral system from the Iraqi one. I think the general differences are not very well understood by the public in the US. Most people in the US assume that elections in Iraq are conducted in the same as they are here, which is not the case at all.


In Iraq, when voting, people can choose to vote for a party or to vote for a specific candidate. And specific candidates need 36,000 votes to secure a seat in parliament.  While candidates represent certain geographic areas, they might not be as legitimate as the representatives here in the US. This is because of the practice of “Vote Sharing”, where parties can distribute extra votes to candidates who did not acquire enough votes to have a seat on their own. Because of the Vote Sharing, the ranking of candidates on the party list matters. Those who are higher up on the list are most likely to receive the extra votes than those who are at the bottom of the list. 
Another interesting aspect is the “quota system” or setting seats aside for women. Female candidates enjoy a priority position by law. They receive the extra votes before the male candidates who are ahead of them in ranking. If a female candidate received 500 votes, the party is required by law to give her the extra votes. However, a male candidate who acquired 20,000 votes but is at the bottom of the party list will most likely receive nothing.
The result of Vote Sharing is that constituencies and people will try to connect and lobby the head of the party as he is the main person who secured enough votes for himself and every other candidate running with his list. Moreover, Voting Sharing institutionalizes a system of patronage, where the head of the party will be exclusively responsible for distributing wealth and power. See the next post for further implications of Vote Sharing.
The result of the quota system is female candidates are being ignored in government formation and their voices are absent in the negotiation room. Mrs. Souhad Hamid Al Obadi and Dr. Izhar Al Shakali from Al Iraqiya list recently expressed their concerns that a government formation is a form of “male dictatorship” where the government formation is exclusively administrated by men [1].   
Naturally, I have a couple of recommendations that can work for both issues. Candidates should represent smaller geographic areas. For example, rather than representing Baghdad, candidates should represent districts within Baghdad to reflect the concentrated interests and specific group interests. This will allow the people to have a strong connection with their representatives (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religious affiliation) because the representatives will have an immediate understanding of the local needs and demands of the community they represent. Thus, the community will elect the person who can build a school, provide safe drinking water, electricity, sewer system… etc., Over some distant or removed head party.     
[1] See Souad Rashid, “Female Parliamentarians are Suffering from the Male Formation of Government,” Elaph, November, 17th, 2010, http://www.elaph.com/Web/news/2010/11/611638.html   

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