“Iraqi Election Results: Post-election Politics Recreate an Old Problem set” – Silverman


Adam L. Silverman PhD[1]

The Iraqi election results that COL Lang provides gives a pretty clear snapshot of the Iraqi socio-political reality.  The Shi’a Lists, the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance, each one has enough votes that an all Shi’a Iraqi coalition could get very close to the minimum number required to form a coalition government.  163 seats is the magic number and the two Shi’a Lists, if they were to combine, have 159!  Given that this Iraqi election was run as a type of first past the post system; whoever gets 163 outright forms the government, if no one gets 163 seats, then whichever List or Party gets the most votes, a plurality, gets the right to try to form the new government.  Should that List or Party fail, than the next List/Party with the most representative plurality gets a chance to try.

This system has the immediate flaw of providing very, very small Parties, Party Lists, or movements to function as kingmakers, power brokers, spoilers, and gives them an undue influence over certain policies.  This is what has happened with Israel’s most recent coalition government, as well as several others in the past.  In the case of Iraq, however, this should actually be the least of anyone’s worries right now.  The most immediate problem isn’t that Iraqqiya, the List of Iyad Allawi, will not be able to form a coalition with other Lists or by splitting parties out of other Lists, but that its right to try to form the next government by getting the largest electoral plurality of 91 seats will be invalidated either through recount manipulation or other dirty tricks.  At least six members of the Iraqqiya list that have been elected to the new Parliament have been indicted for terrorism and arrest warrants have been issued for their arrests.  If they are arrested, or just flee what they are themselves claiming are politically motivated malicious prosecutions to influence the outcome of the election, then the issue will become that PM Maliki’s State of Law List will now have the largest plurality and will be the List asked to try to form the new government! 

This is very important and very dangerous – and not just in the violent sense.  Unlike the various Israeli elections, or even some in Britain, where the party with the largest plurality was accorded the opportunity to try to form a coalition government, but were unable to do so[2], in this case the List with the largest plurality, Iraqqiya, will be stripped of their constitutional right to try to form a government through extra-electoral manipulation.  The significance, and danger, of this is that it creates and then institutionalizes the understanding that the rules of the electoral game are not fixed, are not something to be respected, and therefore elections are either a possibly rigged or actually rigged game whose outcomes can not be trusted.  Lack of faith in the electoral system is a major problem.  Today in the US the myths about voter registration and vote fraud have been mainlined right back into American politics so strongly over the past decade that a significant portion of both Republicans and Tea Party aficionados either believe or are unsure that the 2008 election of President Obama was stolen/rigged for him through voter registration fraud perpetrated by ACORN, and we now have large numbers of angry folks screaming and yelling that the government is illegitimate and a coup has taken place with the passage of health care reform, even as the only voter fraud conviction in recent years has been of a Republican operative.  Now imagine a lack of trust in an electoral system and its outcomes in a place where every male adult is authorized to own an AK 47 and a set amount of ammunition every month, where there is virtually no civil society space as a buffer between the desire for resource acquisition and actually getting those resources, and that the resource disputes are masked as religious-sectarian disputes.  If you can do that, then what you’ll have imagined is Iraq in which the religious-sectarian Party List of the current Prime Minister, a man who not only wishes to retain his position, but who has actively tried to coup proof himself, gets the first shot at forming the new government because the plurality of the Party List representing those who have been locked out of power for the last five plus years (some of which was self imposed with boycotts) had their winning plurality reduced through the current government’s indictment and arrest of six members of the winning List – or through those individuals fleeing the jurisdiction.

The second most immediate problem in regards to the post-election politicking is a follow on from the first and has the potential to return Iraq to the socio-political and socio-cultural dynamics of 2005 through 2008!  If Iraqqiya, which represents the tribal/traditional Sunnis and Shi’a, as well as those Sunnis and Shi’a that are more secular – all groups that have largely been locked out of Iraqi politics at the national level as a result of the Sectarian dispute, the boycott of the 2005 elections, and the failure of the Government of Iraq under PM Maliki to properly integrate the Awakening movements and the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi Security Forces – is prohibited from trying to form the government and that privilege is instead granted to PM Maliki’s State of Law it will simply reinforce the notion that non-religious Shi’a and non-Exile movements that are not tied to Iran have little normative/legitimate influence in Iraq at the national level.  Just run your cursor over the voting blocks on the chart to see that Iraqqiya got a lot of votes in places with mixed communities or larger numbers of Sunnis, while State of Law and the Iraqi National Accord got more votes in Shi’a majority and dominant areas.  Moreover, and of especial concern, is what happens if State of Law and the Iraqi National Accord combine their results.  If this occurs than they can pick up the smaller Lists and Parties to give themselves a comfortable majority and essentially locking everyone else out of the process.

The Most Deadly Iraqi Course of Action would be the invalidation of Iraqqiya’s winning plurality through extra-electoral manipulation followed by the formation of a Shi’a religious near majority coalition composed almost entirely of Shi’a exile groups established and supported by Iran.  The Least Deadly Iraqi Course of Action, and the one that everyone who wants to see some semblance of stability come to Iraq would be Iraqqiya given the right to form the government and doing so through pursuing a broad based coalition that includes Lists and Parties from State of Law, the Iraqi National Accord, the Kurdistan Alliance and several of the smaller parties.  Should Iraqqiya fail to do so, then State of Law should be given the chance, but the same type of coalition will need to be created!  The Sectarian Civil War and Insurgency, which was really a resource dispute that was subsumed within the veneer of sectarian religion, the terrorism of external religious extremists, and pushback from former Ba’athists (ie not what we usually think of it as) will seem tame compared to what will happen in Iraq if the outcome of the 2010 election is resolved in anything but a transparent and legal manner.

[1] Adam L. Silverman, PhD was the Socio-cultural Advisor assigned to the 2BCT/1AD from OCT 2007 to OCT 2008 and was deployed in Iraq in 2008.  The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the 2BCT/1AD.

[2] Again: this is what happened in the most recent Israeli election, where the smaller/smallest and most extreme parties would not come to terms with Tzipi Livni’s Kadima and so the next largest vote getter Likud was asked to try.  There is some recent speculation that Britain’s next election, which looks to be scheduled for May, may have the same issue.  (Hat Tip to: Lawyers, Guns, and Money) In both cases these smaller parties or lists have undue power and influence, but they are all playing by the rules of the electoral game, which provides it legitimacy and continuity."

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8 Responses to “Iraqi Election Results: Post-election Politics Recreate an Old Problem set” – Silverman

  1. Very helpful analysis, thanks.

  2. N. M. Salamon says:

    Dr. Silverman:
    While I accept your analysis’ validity, I find it somewhat different from your other postings, you did not expound on the reason for the LISTS, a creation of essentially USA lawyers under the authority [illegal] of the [illegal] occupying power [notwithstanding the lipstick by the UNSC]. It appears that not only was Bush election contrary to USA constitution [notwithstanding the USSC], the ensuing years were a story of more and more illegal acts [though without legal recourse for the transgression].
    It appears that the Iraqi government has taken a lesson from USA leadership, whatever I do, is legal by definition [ a new concept of the rule of law].
    I appreciate the Colonel’s posting of the results by LISTS – though it would be informative if it be shown how the lists are made up.
    I am aware that the INTENATIONAL COMMUNITY [meanig the USA and her satraps] prefer the Iraqqiya’s right to form government [if they could], however the USA example / lesson stand a good chance of imitation and hell with the consequences.
    It will be interesting to see whom the Sadrist will pick as compromise PM! should know soon. Their choice might be the only solution available for Iraq, and the rest might/will have to live with it.

  3. Adam L Silverman says:

    Mr. Salamon: here is a link to the breakdown of political party by lists:
    As for the Lists concept being a creation of the US, and therefore illegal, my understanding is that this electoral process, which includes the Lists, was the creation of IHEC (The Independent High Electoral Commission) and the Iraqi Parliament with input from the UN and the US. While it is true that IHEC is the product of the Coalition Provisional Authority, it clearly demonstrated, as did the Iraqi Parliament, its independence when it took the US negotiators to the cleaners over the format of the 2009 Provincial Elections back in 2008.
    I’m really not trying to pick sides here – ultimately the Iraqis will sort themselves out for themselves), which is something I’ve been saying since I first got ready to deploy in 2007 – rather my analysis is based on what is likely to produce the most favorable outcome for the Iraqis themselves: one that diminishes the chances for further violence.
    As for the Sadrists as kingmakers: I think that is being overplayed. The other INA parties, let alone the State of Law and/or Iraqqiya parties will find a way to keep that from happening.

  4. Jose says:

    Iran will probably sort this mess out in the short-term, because it is in its national interest to consolidate its influence in Iraq without violence.
    The next election is the one which will probably result in violence, because whoever gets to be Prime Minister will not be forced by the American troops to give up power peacefully.
    Ironic that being in control, actually means we have no control at all.

  5. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Graphic is a Syrian flag – Iraqi flag is here –
    no need to post this comment, just FYI.

  6. Patrick Lang says:

    A moment’s inattention. Sorry. pl

  7. N. M. Salamon says:

    Dr: Silverman:
    Thank you for clarifying my miscopnceptions on the Iraqi9 election.

  8. Legitimacy and the Losers Coalition

    By Dave Anderson: The Allawi led Iraqqiya list won the plurality in the Iraqi parliamentary elections. Iraqqiya won 91 seats to Maliki’s State of Law 89 seats. Neither list is anywhere close to a majority on their own as each won slightly more than a q…

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