Politics & Economics

Looking at Iraq's Electoral System and Upcoming Elections


Campaigning has begun ahead of Parliamentary elections in Iraq on 12th May. This is the first election to be held since ISIS was driven out of the country.

Next month will see new elections take place in Iraq, which will be the first since ISIS was largely driven out of the country. Ahead of the vote on May 12th, candidates have already begun campaigning for the 329 seats in Iraq’s parliament.

Over 24 million Iraqis are eligible to vote, with members of the Parliament elected across 18 regional governorates based on a proportional representation system – the technical term for the numerical system used to allocate seats at the elections is called the Sainte-Lague method. Constituents vote for political parties, rather than individuals, and the number of votes a party gets in a governorate determines how many MPs they are allocated.

Available seats range from just 7 in the Muthanna Governate to 69 in Baghdad, and several are reserved for minority groups including 5 for Christians and one each for Sabian Mandaeans, Yazidis and Shabaks. At least 25% of seats in parliament must also go to women.

The Electoral Commission has announced that a new electronic voting system is being installed to help improve the speed of results, delays to which caused some disturbance in the previous election. Voters have consistently cited corruption as one of the main challenges facing the country, and in part this new system is aimed at reducing voter fraud and boost trust in the electoral system.

Democracy is well embedded in Iraq, and turnout will be key in demonstrating confidence in voting. The 2014 and 2010 elections saw turnouts of around 64% and 63% respectively, down from the very high 79.6% in 2005.

In this election, Iraqis have a choice of over 200 parties, a significant number of which have grouped into multiple coalitions. Many of these coalitions are led by prominent public figures in Iraq, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, former PM Nouri al-Maliki, prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Vice-President Osama al-Nujaifi. There has also been a notable increase in candidates being drawn to parties from across religious and ethnic lines, a clear sign that divisions are healing.

The proportional system will not provide a one-party government, and the leader of the grouping with the most MPs will have the first opportunity to forge a coalition. Whatever this result, this election is a further signal to the world that Iraq is resilient in the face of adversity and fully committed to preserving and strengthening its democracy.