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Iraq: Changes to election law spark divisions

March 31, 2023 at 4:19 pm

Former Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, Iraq on January 4, 2020 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

The Iraqi parliament’s vote in favour of restoring electoral laws that were scrapped after the 2019 anti-government demonstrations has reignited chaos and division among Iraq’s politicians, especially Shia parties.

On Monday, the Iraqi parliament endorsed returning the law to the modified Sainte Lague system introduced in 2014, which would make it hard for independent candidates and small parties to compete against more established parties to reach the legislative council.

The amendments are widely rejected by independent politicians, opposition groups who joined the parliament in October 2021 as well as the Sadrist movement led by Moqtada Al-Sadr.

Hundreds of the Sadr movement’s supporters have in recent days protested against the amendments outside the parliament building and blocked roads leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone in the capital, Baghdad.

Protests were also held in the cities of Hilla, Nasiriyah, Najaf, Diwaniyah and Kut on Monday and early morning Tuesday with protesters burning tyres and blocking main roads with concrete.

The amendments; supported by 275 of the parliament’s 329 lawmakers, were reintroduced by the State of Law parliamentary bloc, headed by Nouri Al-Maliki.

The new law removes 83 electoral districts and creates 18 seats, one for each of Iraq’s provinces.

One independent Iraqi Shia politician told the Arab Post news site, on the condition of anonymity, that the system is “corrupt” because it enables the main large parties to control and dominate the elections while crushes small parties and independent candidates.

Provincial council elections are scheduled to take place in October for the first time in a decade.

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