An electoral law for Iraq’s planned provincial elections is still not complete. No surprise there. And the elections may be delayed again. No surprise there, either.1
Whenever they might get around to holding these contests, what will the electoral system be? Various sources are hinting at open lists or SNTV (though the latter now appears unlikely), but the news and other information is typically sketchy about critical details.
Take this example, from The Guardian:
Unlike the closed lists used in 2005, which helped big parties, a consensus is emerging for a hybrid system. Voters will be able to elect independents and rather than selecting an entire party list, they will have to mark each preferred candidate so the top names have no advantage.
I suppose one could call open-list PR a hybrid of sorts, though it not usually so classified.2 I’m not sure how the closed-list system used at the national elections is supposed to have “helped big parties,” especially given the calculation of of seat distribution at the national level with no threshold other than that set by the (very large) magnitude of allocation (275). The remark about marking “each preferred candidate” implies more than one candidate-preference vote per voter, a feature of some open-list systems, but not a very common feature.3
Then there is historiae.org, a site maintained by Reidar Visser, research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs:
A hybrid system (voters can choose between a list and an individual candidate) has been adopted, but the counting rules are clearly biased towards bigger entities. Whereas the votes for a party list will count towards a cumulative total score which will enable the party to maximise its share of all remaining seats available in a given province, votes cast for an individual representative will apparently become â€œredundantâ€ once a candidate has received enough votes to win a seat for him/herself. This would be a major disincentive against voting for an individual instead of a standard list, because there is a very real chance that the individual vote can be wasted â€“ incidentally, a kind of voter behaviour against which an injunction by top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani was issued back in 2005.
I am really not sure what Visser is getting at here. Again, there is the reference to “hybrid,” and I might read into this that it’s an open list (as other sources imply). But the claim–implicitly contrary to that in The Guardian‘s contrast with the national elections–that it would favor large parties (“entities”) is unclear to me, inasmuch as what is described is the intraparty allocation, rather than the interparty. Of course, open-list PR is PR (for the given district magnitude) and it does indeed thus imply that votes for candidates accrue to the list as a whole (i.e. “pool” on the interparty dimension) but stay only with the candidate for whom cast (i.e. are nontransferable on the intraparty dimension). The suggestion that such rules would be a disincentive to candidate-voting is not born out by any experience with actual open lists that I know of. But then maybe I am misunderstanding and the proposed law is for something other than OLPR. If only we knew. But then again, if these elections never happen, it is rather moot, isn’t it?
- One of the big stumbling blocks is the powder keg that is Kirkuk. [↩]
- The (weak) case for its being properly labeled a “hybrid” would be that it is list PR on the interparty dimension–where closed vs. open vs. flexible is irrelevant anyway–but SNTV on the intraparty dimension. [↩]
- Italy’s former OLPR allowed multiple preference votes till the early 1990s, and Peru’s allows two, I believe. Most others (Brazil, Chile, Finland, etc.) allow only one. [↩]