Iraq is a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of government. The 2005 Iraqi constitution guarantees basic rights. The executive branch consisted of the Presidency Council (one president, two vice presidents -- an arrangement that changed after the March 2010 elections to a single vice president) and a Council of Ministers (one prime minister, two or three deputy prime ministers, and about three dozen cabinet ministers). The president is the head of state, protecting the constitution and representing the sovereignty and unity of the state, while the prime minister is the direct executive authority and commander in chief. The president and vice president[s] are elected by the Council of Representatives. The prime minister is nominated by the largest bloc in the Council of Representatives. Upon designation, the prime minister names the members of his cabinet, the Council of Ministers, which is then approved by the Council of Representatives. The executive branch serves a four-year term concurrent with that of the Council of Representatives.
In the years following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, governance of Iraq passed through several stages. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), established by the United States to govern the country immediately following the occupation, officially transferred sovereignty to an Interim Iraqi Government in June 2004. This was a first step in building a new, indigenous government structure in Iraq. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), functioning as an interim constitution until the end of 2005, called for Iraq to have a permanent republican, federal government system; power was to be shared among the central government, 18 governorates (provinces), and local and municipal governments. The autonomy of one region, Kurdistan, was specifically recognized. In January 2005, national elections to seat an interim parliament were a second step in establishing a permanent government. That parliament built the framework for the writing of a new constitution and the election of a permanent legislature.
After some delay, in October 2005 a two-thirds majority of voters ratified a new constitution, which had been created to replace the TAL by a 55-member panel representing the three main factions: Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. Although some elements remained in dispute, the new charter embodied the same fundamental elements as the TAL, describing Iraq as a "multiethnic, multi-religious, and multi-sect country."
In April 2005, the following individuals were chosen to lead the interim government through the approval of a constitution and election of permanent national officials: a Shia, Ibrahim al Jafari, as prime minister; a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, as president; and a Sunni, Hachim Hasani, as president of the National Assembly. Following approval of the constitution in October and parliamentary elections in December 2005, formation of a permanent government began. For a transitional period of one session of the legislature, executive power remained with a three-person Presidential Council consisting of the president and two vice presidents. The council's actions required unanimity among its three members. Talabani remained president; his vice presidents were the Shia Adil Abdul Mahdi and the Sunni Tariq al Hashimi. In the spring of 2006, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who had replaced Jafari, was able to end months of political deadlock by gaining parliamentary approval of a full slate of 36 ministers, who constituted the first permanent government since 2003. Four ministers were women. In an attempt to broaden support for his government, in mid-2006 Maliki established the Supreme Committee for Reconciliation and National Dialogue, which included members from a wide cross-section of social groups.
Iraq's legislative branch consists of an elected Council of Representatives. After the 2005 elections, the Council of Representatives consisted of 275 members, each of whom was elected to a four-year term of service. The Council of Representatives convened for the first time under the new constitution in March 2006. Prior to that, in 2005 a unicameral, 275-member parliament, the National Assembly, had been elected as a transitional legislature to take the place of the 100-member Interim National Council, which the Coalition Provisional Authority had named in mid-2004. In the elections of January 2005 that chose the assembly, the Shia United Iraqi Alliance won 140 seats, the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (a coalition of the two major Kurdish parties) won 75 seats, and a secular bloc, Iraqi National Accord, won 40 seats. Having largely boycotted the election, the substantial Sunni minority gained only 17 seats, but the Sunnis were allotted the position of speaker of parliament in a power-sharing compromise.
Upon ratification of the 2005 constitution, the parliament organized a new round of parliamentary elections leading to the formation of a permanent government. The elections of December 2005 revised somewhat the power balance among the major factions, adding substantially to Sunni representation. The United Iraqi Alliance won 128 seats (eight seats short of a majority), and the newly formed Sunni Iraqi Accord Front won 44. The Kurdish party won 53 seats, a loss of 22, and Iraqi National Accord won 25, a loss of 15. Mahmud Mashhadani, a Sunni, was elected president of the Council of Representatives in April 2006.
A new electoral law in 2009 increased the size of the Council from 275 members (formerly 230 seats from party lists in each governorate and 45 national compensatory seats) and replaced a closed-list system with open party lists. Under the new system, 310 seats are apportioned among 18 governorates, 7 are nationwide compensatory seats, 8 are reserved to minority groups in specific governorates (Christian (5), Sabean (1), Shabak(1), and Yizidi(1)). The Christian seats are, however, voted for across the national constituency. Constitutionally, the membership of the Council is to seek to achieve at least 25% (82 seats) representation of women. The 7 national compensatory seats are awarded to lists based on the country-wide proportion of seats won at the governorate-level tier. The Council election also allows for the participation of out-of-country voters (OCV), who are able to vote at the governorate-level tier. At least one-quarter of the members of the Council of Representatives must be female. The responsibilities of the Council of Representatives include enacting federal laws, monitoring the executive branch, and electing the president of the republic.
Iraq's judicial branch is independent, and is under no authority but that of the law. The federal judicial authority is comprised of the Higher Judicial Council, Federal Supreme Court, Court of Cassation, Public Prosecution Department, Judiciary Oversight Commission, and other federal courts. The Higher Judicial Council supervises the affairs of the federal judiciary. The Federal Supreme Court has limited jurisdiction related to intra-governmental disputes and constitutional issues. The appellate courts appeal up to the Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeal. The establishment of the federal courts, their types, and methods for judicial appointments will be set forth by laws enacted by the Council of Representatives.
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