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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Democracy: Metis or Techne?

While doing research for an article on the U.S. and democratization in Iraq, I was recently led to James C. Scott’s book Seeing Like a State. In the final chapter, Scott explores two types of knowledge: metis, or practical knowledge, and techne, or technical knowledge. In keeping with my current research subject of democratization, I began to question how democracy fits into this dichotomy.

Below are my thoughts on this subject. It is a long read (my apologies) but it is a subject that I feel deserves a close look due to its direct implications with our adventure in Iraq and future policy.

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