Inquiry & Analysis - Iraq
February 16, 2005
Iraqi Elections (VI): The Results and Their Implications
By Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*
By all accounts the general elections held in Iraq on January 30, 2005 were
a seminal event in the history of the country and, by extension, an
important benchmark by which the future evolution of democracies in other
countries of the Middle East will be measured. The people of Iraq went by
the millions to cast their ballots in a first step toward establishing a
The mechanism of the elections was as follows:
Each Iraqi voter was given the opportunity to cast two ballots: one for the
national assembly and one for one of the eighteen provincial councils. The
voters in the three Kurdish provinces (Dahouk, Erbil and Sulaymaniya) cast a
third ballot for the autonomous Kurdish parliament.
The choices open to the voters were broad and varied. There were 111 lists
of political parties, coalitions or individuals, comprising a total of 7471
candidates who were competing for the 275 seats in the National Assembly.
Additionally, 7850 candidates were running for 748 seats in the provincial
councils (41 seats in each province, except for Baghdad with 51 seats.) And,
finally, there were 499 candidates running for the 111 seats in the Kurdish
Parliament. A total of 15,820 candidates at all levels of the elections
were, thus, competing for 1134 seats, or an average of 14 candidates per
seat - a high figure by Western standards but an understandable one for a
people bursting with democratic impulses after almost half a century of
political dictatorship and denial of liberty.
According to the figures published by the Independent Elections Commission
in Iraq (IECI), approximately 8.45 million voters, or about 59 percent of
14.2 million registered voters (including those registered overseas), cast
their ballots. The results of the elections will be officially certified
three days after the date of their publication, in order that anyone wishing
to contest the results shall have an opportunity to come forward. As the
director general of IECI 'Adil al-Lami has pointed out, it is not the
tabulation of ballots that is apt to be in question. Rather, results may be
contested for the alleged failure of the Elections Commission to open the
ballot boxes for voters in the city of Mosul and a number of other cities in
the Sunni Triangle because of security considerations. As a result, as many
as 15,000 voters in one instance were denied the chance to vote.(1)
Based on the distribution of votes, twelve lists will be represented in the
National Assembly. For the Table of Lists Represented in the National
Assembly, visit http://memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=IA20705
Procedures of Seat Allocation
Seat allocations for Iraq's 275-member National Assembly are calculated as
* The total number of valid votes cast (8,456,266) is divided by 275 to give
an initial quota of 30,750 votes per seat.
* Any list with fewer votes than the initial quota is excluded.
* After excluding the votes of lists who fell below the threshold the total
votes used for calculating the allocation of seats is reduced to 8,011,450.
* A seat quota is then calculated by dividing the new total by 275, which is
29,132 votes per seat.
* The unallocated balance of votes is dealt with by giving an extra seat to
lists with the highest balance to complete the allocation of the 275
As was expected, three lists (the Kurdish list (130), Shi'ite list (169),
and Allawi's list (185)) have emerged with 87.6 percent of the votes. Had
the Sunnis voted in large numbers, the number of votes of the three major
lists may have been the same but their percentage of the total would have
been decidedly lower.
Comments on the Results
The results suggest a number of observations:
A) The Iraqi National Alliance
It is significant that the Iraqi National Alliance has emerged with a
plurality rather than a majority of the votes. This outcome could limit its
governing options, particularly on matters relating to the role of Islam in
the state. It should also be kept in mind that this list itself is a
coalition of two competing Shi'ite parties - the Supreme Council of the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) headed by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim and the
al-Da'wa Party, headed by Ibrahim al-Ja'afari - and the secular Iraqi
National Congress, headed by Dr. Ahmad Chalabi. In addition to these three
established political elements the Allied list includes a number of
independent candidates, amongst whom are secular Shi'ites and even
individuals representing other Iraqi ethnic groups.
Three major figures, 'Adil Abd al-Mehdi, Ibrahim al-Ja'afari and Ahmad
Chalabi, have announced their candidacies for the post of prime minister.
Provided the Alliance remains cohesive, which may not be the case for long,
any candidate it sponsors is likely to be the next prime minister. This will
leave Mr. Allawi out of the list of viable candidates. However, should group
cohesion give way to the pressures and incentives of deal-making, there
could be a big surprise that could benefit Mr. Allawi. Another possible
contender is Hussein al-Shahrestani, a nuclear physicist who opposed being
drawn into Saddam's program to produce weapons of mass destruction and who
was subsequently imprisoned, may reemerge as a viable candidate after
withdrawing from the race a few days ago
B) The Kurds
By all standards, the Kurds, who make up no more than 20 percent of the
population, garnered 25.7 percent of the vote, have emerged as the biggest
winners and greatest beneficiaries of Sunni boycott of the elections. The
Kurds are now in a position to tip the scales in favor of a candidate
amenable to fulfilling their political aspirations and demands. These
include the election of their leader Jalal Talabani as the president of
But beyond this immediate demand, the Kurds have three critical priorities:
first, the creation of federalism in Iraq that will guarantee the autonomy
of the Kurdish region comprising the three governorates of Dahouk, Erbil and
Sulaymania; second, the incorporation of the City of Kirkuk with its vast
oil reserves into the Kurdish region; and, third, the separation of powers
and the giving of primacy in legislation to democracy over religion. In
fact, the strength of the Kurds and some of the secular Shi'ites within the
Alliance list backed by the secular Shi'ite group of Ayad Allawi will be a
significant bulwark against any attempt by the Shi'ite clerics to produce an
Islamist government in Iraq.
A) The Current Iraqi Leadership
The results of the elections have fallen below the expectations of Ayad
Allawi, the interim prime minister, who was unable to escape blame for the
absence of security and for the shortages in basic amenities, particularly
electricity, drinking water, gasoline for cars, and gas for home cooking.
Iraq's interim President, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer, whose list earned only five
seats, is most likely to lose his job under the next government. Ironically,
his failure is a success: that is, the results of the elections testify to
their fairness and transparency. Elections in Arab states never result in
existing governments losing.
B) Iraq's Elder Statesman
The results must also be considered unsatisfactory for Dr. 'Adnan
al-Pachachi, Iraq's elder statesman, a leading Sunni candidate and a former
minister of foreign affairs who failed to receive sufficient votes to be
elected. Dr. al-Pachachi waxed philosophical by declaring that "Allah is
generous" (Allah Karim) and that he will participate in the next elections.
In the meantime, he will prod the Sunnis to be active in the new government
and the drafting of the new constitution.(3) Dr. al-Pachachi is being
mentioned as a possible second vice president of Iraq.(4)
C) The Monarchist Movement
The elections have dealt a fatal blow to the aspirations of two political
movements which run on a platform calling for the restoration of monarchy to
Iraq. The claimant to the throne, al-Sharif Ali bin Al-Hussein, a cousin of
the last Iraqi monarch, Faisal II, received 13,740 votes. The second list
under the name of Iraqi Hashemite Group, received another 9,781 votes. Even
if the votes of both lists had been combined, the result would have gained
hardly one seat in the National Assembly and ultimately had no impact on the
nature of the emerging regime in Iraq.
Key Events After the Elections
Under the Transitional Administrative Law (the law governing Iraq, or TAL,
during the transition to a constitutional democracy) the following key
events must take place following the tabulation of the votes and the winners
* The Transitional National Assembly will appoint by a two-third majority a
Presidency Council, consisting of a President and two Deputy Presidents
(Article 36 of TAL).
* The Presidency Council will appoint by a unanimous vote a Prime Minister
and - on his or her recommendation - cabinet ministers to run the Iraqi
government (Article 38). The number of ministries is not fixed by the TAL.
If the Presidency Council fails to nominate a prime minister unanimously the
responsibility will be reverted to the National Assembly, which must do so
by a two-third majority.
* The Prime Minister and his cabinet must receive a vote of confidence by a
simple majority of the National Assembly before commencing work as a
* The Transitional National Assembly is required to draft a new constitution
by August 15, 2005.
* The draft constitution is to be presented in a referendum to the Iraqi
people for approval by October 15, 2005.
By December 15, 2005 new elections will be held under the new constitution
to choose a new national assembly which, in turn, will have to approve a new
The Weight of Women
Under the Transitional Administration Law, women will comprise at least 25
percent of the members of the National Assembly. It is a great achievement
for the Iraqi women, although it is too early to tell what will be their
weight in the assembly and how they vote on matters relating to family
The Problem of Personal Security
The Iraqi voters cast their ballots for lists of candidates, often not
knowing who were on the lists. When the votes are finally tabulated and the
seats are allocated, the names of the 1134 individuals who will occupy the
seats of the national assembly, the provincial councils, and the Kurdish
parliament, will be made public. In some high-risk areas, but not only
there, these men and women will be targets for terrorists and remnants of
the Ba'th regime determined to undermine and disrupt the will of the
electorate. Providing individual security to so many elected office holders
will pose a great challenge to the nascent security services of Iraq.
*Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic
(1) Al-Zaman (Baghdad), February 14, 2005.
(2) The figures are provided by the Independent Elections Commission for
Iraq on February 13, 2005. A detailed distribution of votes for all the 111
lists competed in the elections is published in the daily Al-Zaman
(Baghdad), February 14, 2005.
(3) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 14, 2005.
(4) Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 14, 2005.
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