New Electoral Law to Sideline Small Opposition Parties

Meantime the new law provides a challenge of a different kind. There have been complaints that it favours larger parties over smaller ones. Iraq’s smaller parties are often the ones that have been trying to amend Iraq’s existing political system. That mission will not become any easier, thanks to this new legislation.

On August 1, Iraq’s parliamentarians voted that the country would keep using the so-called Sainte-Laguë system, a mathematical formula used to count votes and ascertain representation. The Sainte-Laguë system stops larger parties from gobbling up the votes smaller parties have won, if the smaller parties haven’t won enough votes to pass a certain threshold. Politicians decided the formula should use a divisor of 1.9 to allocate seats. But this is considered high, with most other countries who use this system using a divisor of between one and 1.4. It puts smaller parties at a disadvantage.

This caused so many complaints that the Sadrist party, led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and represented in Iraq’s Parliament by the Ahrar bloc, organised demonstrations in central Baghdad. In response to the complaints and the protests, the divisor was lowered to 1.7. But again, this is still high in comparison with other nations and will disadvantage smaller parties.

Opposition parties are still demanding the divisor be lowered further, to 1.4. This opposition includes the Ahrar bloc, the Fadilah, or Virtue, party and the National Accord party. In fact MPs associated with the Sadrist movement and the Ahrar bloc left the hall, in order to try and thwart the legislation by making sure there were insufficient numbers of MPs to vote. Unfortunately their attempt failed.

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