Iraq seat attribution favours large parties
Published February 14th 2005 in The Daily Times (Pakistan)
BAGHDAD: The complex mechanism for attributing seats laid out by Iraq’s electoral law favours larger blocs and prevents the entry into the 275-member National Assembly of a crowd of one-seat parties.

The proportional representation system treating Iraq as one single constituency theoretically favours small parties, but the electoral law has reduced the overall number of lists entering parliament to 12. According to the results of the landmark general elections announced Sunday by the electoral commission, 8,456,266 Iraqis cast a ballot on January 30.

The first round of counting is a de facto elimination process.

The total number of votes cast is first divided by the number of seats in parliament to obtain a threshhold, above which parties can remain in the race.

As a result, the 99 lists who fell short of 30,750 votes are excluded from the “second round’, leaving only 12 lists competing for parliamentary representation.

The total number of votes obtained by the 12 lists (8,011,450) then has to be divided again by 275 to determine the new minimum figure required to be automatically granted a seat. A seat is then attributed for every 29,132 votes and the four remaining seats are handed to the lists with the highest remainder.

The consequence of this elimination process is that large parties obtain a higher percentage of seats than their share of votes.

For example, the frontrunning coalition of Shiite religious parties backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani (UIA) mustered 48.1 perent of the votes, but ends up with 54 percent of seats or 140 MPs - an absolute majority. Similarly, the Kurdish alliance obtained 25.7 percent of the votes cast on January 30 but will have 27.2 percent of seats in parliament or 75 deputies.