While tomorrow’s election in Iraq is for provincial councils, and while it is by open-list PR (we think), one Iraqi observer thinks the outcome may turn on voters’ evaluations of the performance of national parties. Others expect the new electoral system to give voters a chance to shake up the political class, due to the candidate-based voting.
For the first view, the LA Times notes:
[Sheik Fatih] Ghitaa [director of the Al Thaqalayn Center for Strategic Studies in Baghdad] said the parties are confusing voters all over the country by attaching photos of some of Iraq’s most well-recognized politicians, such as Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, instead of making a greater effort to educate them about the local candidates.
I am not so sure that this should be seen as a bad thing. Besides, the candidates are presumably undertaking their own person campaigns; educating voters about their own candidates need not be an activity undertaken by parties under open list PR. (Parties might even have good reason to stay out of the intraparty contests and just let the candidates and their campaigns sort them out.) In fact, Ghitaa suggests that there is personal campaigning going on, but does not like that either:
Ghitaa said his polling has also shown that most voters, particularly those in central and southern Iraq, are seeking personal benefits.
“They’re asking, ‘What can this candidate do for me?’ ” Ghitaa said. “We don’t see patriotic or principled behavior — just beneficial behavior, which is an unfortunate thing that’s now happening in Iraq.”
Again, this does not seem like such a terrible thing (or consistent with Ghitaa’s first concern). If democracy is going to work, voters will need to feel it works for them.
First, the campaign features:
colourful posters that highlight both the different faces of Iraqi society and the battle hotting up for tomorrow’s provincial elections. Alongside images of austere looking bearded men in clerical robes are headshots of women in brightly coloured veils and businessmen in western-style suits, each vying for a seat in Basra’s regional government.
For war-weary Iraqis, fed up with corruption, mismanagement, killing and kidnappings, the polls offer a glimmer of hope that a new generation of politicians may emerge, with a focus on people’s needs rather than the corrupt and sectarian politics that have dominated in the post-Saddam era.
As Jack notes, this combination of a choice of a wider range of candidates and the potential for turnover would be an anticipated result of the open-list system. Assuming it is indeed open list–something we have discussed here before (see links below). Jack also comments that, “Going by a photo of a ballot (slide number five) at Financial Times, it doesn’t look like either” open-list PR or SNTV.
I hope someone who reads Arabic might be able to help us out here. With the caveat that being able to read Arabic would be helpful, I’ll note that the pictured ballot looks like it contains only party names and symbols (plus perhaps some independent candidates). If that is right, then it can’t be SNTV, but it still could be an open list: many open-list ballots contain one area for checking a party name and another for optionally writing in the name or number of a candidate from the chosen party. Is that what this is?
Anyway, it seems to me that the possibility of voting (for parties) based on evaluations of national performance and voting for candidates who might be offering something “different” are compatible outcomes of the electoral reform. And encouraging for ongoing democratic development in the country.
See previous discussions of Iraq’s electoral law for these elections: