03/28/2023, 20.08
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Iraq gets a new electoral law backed by pro-Iranian Shia bloc

Critics and minorities slam the reform for reducing the chances of smaller parties, sparking protests in several cities like the capital Baghdad and Basra in the south. The new law was adopted after a long session by 206 votes in favour and 12 against in the 329-member house.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Iraqi parliament has approved amendments to the country’s election law that could, according to critics and minorities, limit the chances of smaller parties and independent candidates to win – and even compete – in future elections.

The vote, which was held yesterday, has already become contentious, so much so that in some cities, like Baghdad, Najaf, Basra and Nasiriyah, protests were held, eventually dispersed by police.

The new law creates larger electoral districts, a move broadly backed by the Coordination Framework (CF), a coalition of Shia groups close to Iran with the largest bloc in the current parliament.

Last year, the CF was instrumental for the rise to power of incumbent Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani after a long tug-of-war with the faction linked to radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

The reform bill received 206 votes against 12 votes in the 329-member Council of Representatives. About one third of all members did not vote, either refusing to cast their vote or too tired from the long session that began on Sunday.

The amendments change key articles approved before the 2021 elections and redraw the entire electoral map, based on the Sainte-Laguë method (or major fractions method to allocate seats in a party-list proportional representation system)

Independent MPs and minor parties are opposed to the new law, including ethnic Turkmen lawmakers.

The new system is similar to the one in place in 2014, with a complicated distribution of seats that tends to favour the major blocs. It eliminates 83 electoral districts and creates 18 new ones, one for each province.

“The amendments aim to hold free and fair elections for the Iraqi Council of Representatives (Parliament) and provincial councils to ensure fair distribution of seats among the competing lists," reads a statement by the parliament’s media office.

Parliament also decided that provincial council elections would be held no later than 20 December; the last ones took place in 2009, with the following scheduled for 2013 cancelled because of political disputes.

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