Considerations for an Electoral
for Iraq's Transition Period
by Sama Hadad
Full Report (English)
Full Report (Arabic)
this report demonstrates, there are many types of electoral
systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
However, no system in particular is immediately obvious
as the ideal choice for electing the National Assembly.
Therefore, one requires a systematic approach to selecting
a suitable system. It may be worth considering each class
of systems independently first and deciding upon the most
appropriate from each.
of elections employed for Iraq's transition period needs
to fulfil several requirements that reflect the current
status of the country. The first of these is that the actual
process of voting should be very simple for the electorate.
With no real experience of elections, after decades of dictatorship,
any system that requires the voter to make more than one
choice will likely lead to confusion and should be avoided.
Furthermore, the results of any system need to be easy to
explain and understand otherwise this will fuel conspiracy
theories and sour the voting experience. Secondly, systems
that are more inclusive should be favoured over systems
that are not. The process of drafting a constitution and
guiding the country through the transition period needs
to include as many sections of Iraqi society as possible.
Finally, the fewer constituency borders that a system requires
the better since this will minimize the political wrangling
that will undoubtedly occur.
of the Block Vote and Alternative Vote, both of which require
more than one selection by the voter, make them an unfavourable
choice from the Majority-Plurality systems. The likely possibility
of many wasted votes and lack of minority representation
under First Past the Post also rules out this system as
an appropriate choice for Iraq's transition. This leaves
the Two-Round system which, although is more costly, is
possibly the most appropriate choice for the National Assembly
from this class of systems owing to its simplicity for the
voter and the fact that it ensures the winning candidate
has a majority of the votes. However, all Majority-Plurality
systems are liable to leaving large sections of the population
From the Semi-Proportional
systems, the Parallel Vote is undesirable as it often leaves
voters confused and is complex. The Single Non-Transferable
Vote is an attractive option since it improves proportionality,
limits the need for boundary definitions (yet does not totally
exclude it), and is very simple to conduct and explain.
However, it can mean that candidates with a very small percentage
of votes can win seats, especially in regions where one
candidate sweeps a majority of votes.
The final class
of systems is that of Proportional Representation, which
tend to ensure the greatest degree of inclusion of all the
classes of systems. However, the compounding complexities
of the Single Transferable Vote system would not be suitable
for national elections in Iraq during the vulnerable transition
period. At the same time the Mixed Member Proportional system
would produce confusing results that will undoubtedly spark
a wave of conspiracy theories in a country unaccustomed
to elections. This only leaves the List Proportional Representation
system which is certainly not suitable if applied on a countrywide
scale, since Iraq lacks a well developed political party
system. However, it can be argued that List PR confined
to each province may be workable, allowing independents
a realistic chance of being elected. In addition, a Provincial
List PR system would produce very few wasted votes and thus
give the greatest proportion of voters a stake in Iraq's
A study of
the Single Non-Transferable Vote reveals that its greatest
disadvantage, allowing candidates with a very small percentage
of the vote to win, can be resolved by applying a minimum
threshold percentage that winning candidates must achieve.
Such a threshold can be defined on the basis that if all
winning candidates achieved only this minimum threshold
of votes then their combined percentages would equal a majority
of votes cast (e.g. for a two-seat district the minimum
threshold would be 25% of votes, for three seats it would
be 16.7%, for four seats 12.5%, etc.). This will produce
a hybrid system that would on occasions require a second
round, as in the Two-Round system, whereby double the number
of vacant seats of runners-up proceed to the second round
(e.g. if one seat remains then the top two runners-up would
proceed to a second round).
up the advantages and disadvantages of Provincial List PR
against the modified Single Non-Transferable Vote, it is
clear the former is simpler to administer and avoids any
new border delineations while the later is better suited
for a country lacking a well defined political party system
and provides a stronger link between constituents and their
Member of Parliament. It is probable that both systems would
produce similar degrees of proportionality.