Iraqi opposition and independent MPs reject election law changes

Iraqi opposition and independent MPs reject election law changes
The Democratic Forces of Change, alongside independent MPs, are opposing the Iraqi parliament's efforts to rush through a change to electoral laws which many believe are intended to further strengthen the dominant political forces of the country.
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Protests against Iraq's dominant political hierarchy have been held across Iraq [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty]

The Iraqi opposition bloc the Democratic Forces for Change (DFC) has rejected parliament's plans to accelerate the passage of a legal amendment to the electoral system, which they fear will entrench the power of the country's dominant sectarian forces and sideline independent MPs and emerging parties.

The DFC currently includes eight political parties, including the Iraqi Communist Party, and others which emerged out of the Tishreen protests of October 2019.

Now the movement is opposing the electoral reforms, which they say will isolate independents and other anti-establishment parties.

"Rushing this law through, without considering the views of those opposed to the current system of government, is a violation of democratic values and political pluralism and affirms the approach of exclusion and marginalisation which has long been practiced by the dominant political powers over the past years," said representatives from the DFC leadership at a press conference in Baghdad over the weekend.

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The proposed changes would see the Sainte-Lague method of parliamentary seat distributions reintroduced, the system used in the 2014 and 2018 elections.

This would leave just a single electoral district per governorate instead of multiple districts per governorate, as was the case in Iraq's most recent elections in 2021.

It also seeks to integrate the parliamentary vote with the provincial council elections, and implement new rules around Iraqi expatriate voting and vote-counting methods.

There is "near consensus"among the dominant parties of the Iraqi parliament about passing the law, according to Abdul Karim Abtan, a member of the parliamentary legal committee. It follows meetings between Iraq's largest Arab, Shia, Sunni and Kurdish power blocs, all of whom are part of the 'State Administration Coalition' within Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani's government.

However, the proposed law has been rejected by civil and independent forces, who seek changes in the proposed law and are awaiting for the stance of the Sadrist movement to emerge, one of Iraq's most powerful political movements.

Large protests have broken out opposing the electoral law change across Iraq over the past few weeks and meetings have been held by those opposing the law to decide what steps to take next. 

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Arif Hamami, an MP from the Coordination Framework - part of the dominant State Administration Coalition - said: "The State Administration Coalition, despite having a parliamentary majority, which would enable it to pass any law it likes, doesn't want to disregard anyone so discussions are ongoing.

"However there's near consensus... that the law will be in line with Sainte-Lague 1.6, and some independent MPs and nascent parties in the parliament have agreed to this."

Haidar Al-Matiri, an independent MP, said it was untrue to imply that all in parliament agreed to the changes: "It is rejected by the independent MPs and the public, as well as going against what was called for by the Marja' [Grand Ayatollah Sistani] and the Iraqi street."

He said that those independent MPs siding with the influential powers in backing the law changes were not representative of the opposition movement as a whole.

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There is particular opposition to Article 7 of the proposed law, which would allow individuals sentenced for misdemeanours relating to moral or administrative corruption to stand in elections:

"This is something we won't allow, and will challenge it and work to amend it as there is both parliamentary and popular rejection against it," he said.

"The powerful, establishment forces are working hard to pass an electoral law which will suit them, in order to consolidate their control.

He claimed that the parties seek to entrench the political rules underpinning the sectarian power-sharing system and control all political decision-making.

"[This] is unacceptable, he added.

This is an edited translation from two articles from our Arabic edition. To read the original articles, click here and here.