Iraq’s Sectarian Electoral System

Election worker empties ballots from a box during the 2009 provincial elections in Basra.

Election worker empties ballots from a box during the 2009 provincial elections in Basra. (Photo: New York Times)

The political scientist Maurice Duverger, in his classic work Political Parties, claimed that party systems and electoral systems in a democracy are “indissolubly linked” and “difficult to separate.” Together, these two systems determine the accuracy of political representation within a state. I have spent the last year studying political parties in Iraq and it is clear that the party system in Iraq created sectarian political representation. Therefore, according to Duverger’s statement, the electoral system in Iraq must also, in some way, contribute to that sectarian representation. In order to understand this relationship, it is useful to look back at the evolution of Iraq’s electoral system.

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Maliki’s Misplaced Fear

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The flag of the Islamic State of Iraq. The group, linked to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the March 8th attack on Syrian troops in Iraq. (Photo: http://www.wikipedia.org)

A few days ago the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), a Sunni militant group with links to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the March 8th massacre of 48 Syrian and nine Iraqi soldiers in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. The attack targeted an Iraqi army convoy that was returning Syrian troops who crossed into Iraq to escape rebel fighters. Originally, the operation was attributed the Al-Nusra Front, a Sunni insurgent group in Syria that is also linked to Al-Qaeda and has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. government. The reality is that it doesn’t matter if the attack was carried out by Al-Qaeda’s Syrian or Iraqi front. What matters is that the attack is the most glaring sign to date that Syria’s civil war is spilling over into an Iraq that is struggling with increased sectarian tensions and fears of another civil war. Continue reading