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Iraq Parliament approves unpopular election law amendments

March 27, 2023 at 3:54 pm

Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Iraq Mohamed Al-Halbousi chairs the parliament session at the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq on October 27, 2022. Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, who was appointed to form a new government, visited the parliament building to receive a vote of confidence for his cabinet [Iraqi Parliament / Handout – Anadolu Agency]

Iraq’s Parliament approved, on Monday, amendments to the elections law, a move that has angered independent lawmakers and small parties who say the new legislation could weaken their chances, Reuters reports.

The amendments abandon an election law under which the last parliamentary election was held in 2021, in response to pressure from anti-government protests demanding fairer election law and the departure of Iraq’s ruling elite.

More than 560 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also members of the security forces, have been killed since a wave of popular unrest began in October 2019, demanding an overhaul of a political system seen by many as profoundly corrupt.

The new amendments were pushed by a coalition of Shia parties, known as the “Coordination Framework”, which is an alliance of Iran-aligned factions that control the majority of Parliament, lawmakers said.

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In Iraq’s last general election, populist Shia Muslim cleric, Moqtada Al-Sadr’s party was the biggest winner with 73 seats, but Sadr ordered his bloc to resign after months of stalemate over forming a new government.

Sadr’s decision to depart Parliament and politics strengthened the power of rival Iran-backed politicians in the assembly.

“Large parties controlling Parliament plan to consolidate their powers and remove independents. They want to smash us,” said independent lawmaker, Hadi Al-Salami.

Legislators rejecting amendments to the law tried to block the start of the session by shouting and chanting close to the speaker podium.

“No, no to the new law. We reject confiscating the real democracy,” screamed one lawmaker, while blowing a referee’s whistle in protest at holding the session.

Speaker of Parliament, Mohammed Al-Halbousi, ordered security forces to remove lawmakers who tried to stop the vote outside the session hall, lawmakers said.

Parties voting in favour of amending the law defended their position and said democratic procedures were observed in legislating new law and that it was passed by majority.

“Parliament voted for the new law after reaching a consensus among most political parties and no need for the fuss,” said Shia lawmaker, Arif Al-Hamami.

Opposition parties and analysts warned that the Parliament vote could trigger protests and revive unrest in Iraq.

“Changing the law to make it serve the interests of larger political parties is a clear move to control both government and Parliament and many Iraqis won’t like it. Protests could return back soon,” said Baghdad-based political advisor, Ahmed Younis.

New election law will be applied in the next national election, for which no date has been set yet, and for the provincial election which Parliament demanded to be held on 6 November.

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