2014 Parliamentary Elections
New Iraqi elections were held on 30 April 2014. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition is expected to do well on election day. The prime minister’s position likely was strengthened when influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced he was pulling out of Iraqi politics earlier this year. Nouri al-Maliki found ways to get a tighter and tighter grip on power. The expectation is that he will really emerge as the only game in town.
Members of the Council of Representatives are elected by proportional representation with semi-open list balloting. A new electoral law in 2013 increased the size of the Council from 325 members to 328 members (formerly 310 seats from party lists in each governorate and 7 national compensatory seats). Under the new system, 320 seats are apportioned among 18 governorates and 8 are reserved to minority groups (Christian (5), Sabean (1), Shabak (1), and Yizidi (1)) in specific governorates. Constitutionally, the membership of the Council is to seek to achieve at least 25% (82 seats) representation of women. Each list must have 1 female candidate after each 3 male candidates. The Council election also allows for the participation of out-of-country voters (OCV), who are able to vote at the governorate-level tier.
In November 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that calculating seats based on the largest remainder system was unconstitutional because it discriminated against smaller parties. The new method used to calculate seats will be a modified Sainte-Laguë method.
There are 276 political entities are registered to participate in the elections. Most choose to form coalitions either before or after the elections. According to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), of 107 electoral lists, 39 will be coalitions and 68 will be independent entities.
Some observers expected the election to be characterized by strong intra-sectarian competition, as opposed to the Shiite versus Sunni rivalry in previous elections. Among the Shiite parties, the rivalry centers on three major forces: the State of Law Coalition (SLC) of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; the Muqtada al-Sadr current; and the Supreme Islamic Council of Ammar al-Hakim.
Harith Hasan noted that "the Shiite National Alliance is probably going to break up into several groups.... the political bloc of Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, Mustaqiluun (Independents) — which is still part of the SLC — is studying the option of entering the elections as a single party. The same is true for the Iraqiya List, which has broken up into several groups within parliament also fractured during the last provincial election. Zuhair al-A’iraji, a lawmaker from one of these groups — Free Iraqiya — predicted that the coalition will be replaced by three competing groups. The Mutahidoun bloc, led by parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, has recently emerged as the largest Sunni bloc but it failed to become an alternative umbrella for all Sunni factions, as has been shown by the results of the provincial election."
There is no fixed electoral law in Iraq, allowing parliament the right to change the law each electoral season or to amend earlier laws. Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki called for the House of Representatives to vote on proposals to amend the election law in accordance with the adoption of the open list and multiple circuits. Parliament had failed in the last session to vote on the election law, with several differences between the blocs, including determining determine compensatory seats and quotas.
Vice President Hadayr al Huzai noted in November 2013 that a new election law had not been prepared due to the political parties' disagreements. Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama an-Nujaifi said that if the parties did not reach compromise on an election law they would go to the elections under the existing election law. But head of the Kurdish Regional Government Massoud Barzani stated that they would boycott the election in case the parties did not compromise on the election law.
Maliki's prospects for a third term as prime minister following the election dimmed following the bombings and other violence across the country in 2013. Some fear the elections in April will bring more violence and further the descent into civil war. Toby Dodge, a professor at the London School of Economics told the Washington Post 06 January 2014 that the violence in al-Anbar Province may have given Maliki further incentive to confront Sunnis. “Maliki is running an increasingly overt sectarian election campaign, and this is a part of it... Maliki needs to solidify the Shiite vote before the election, and the bigger the al-Qaeda threat, the better the chance he has of doing that."
According to the Iraqi Elections Law all three Kurdish provinces -- Erbil, Sulaimani and Dohuk - would have 54 representatives in the parliament. Erbil would have 15, Sulaimani 18 and Duhok 11. The Election Commission has authorized the political parties to nominate two candidates for each seat. The Kurdistan Democratic Party expected to win 25 to 27 seats in the coming election.
On March 25, 2014, all nine members of the Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) tendered their resignations. They cited a lack of independence due to an ongoing conflict between the ruling of a judicial panel and a parliamentary ruling on the meaning of an electoral statute that requires candidates to be “of good reputation." The judicial panel had used that statute to disqualify several opponents of Prime Minister MALIKI without a clear avenue for repeal. Parliament, by contrast, ruled that individuals should not be disqualified under this statute unless they have been convicted of criminal offenses. After talks with several regional and international organizations, including the United Nations mission in Iraq, the commissioners rescinded their resignations on March 30.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Nikolay Mladenov said a few days after the election that "This was the first entirely Iraqi-owned process in which the United Nations had an advisory role but the leading role was with the Iraqi authorities. And they deserve a lot of credit for a very professional manner in which they approached the organization of the election."
By mid-May 2014 Iraqis were still waiting for the results of last month's parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law alliance was expected to win the most seats, but not enough to be able to form a new government on its own.
The results for the first parliamentary election since the U.S. military withdrawal in 2011 were released on 19 May 2014 by the Independent High Electoral Commission. According to the results, al-Maliki's State of Law bloc gained 92 seats in the 328-member parliament. A list loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr came second with 28 seats, followed by the list of another powerful Shi'ite cleric, Ammar al-Hakim, with 29 seats. Iraqi radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had announced his retirement from politics February 16, 2014. In a handwritten note posted on his website, Sadr announced his "non-intervention in all political affairs." He said "there is no bloc that represents us from now on." State of Law was not expected to command a majority outright. Al-Maliki must now reach out to other blocs to try to form a ruling coalition. That process could take months.
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