The Hill on 23 June ran an Oxford Analytica op-ed that highlights the factional balance within the alliance that obtained the plurality of seats in the Iraqi parliamentary elections, the United Iraqi Alliance.
The Alliance’s closed list had been set up prior to the election in such a way as to ensure that no one Shiite faction would have more than 20 seats. As Oxford Analytica notes:
In effect, the UIA list put off a truly democratic plebiscite [poor word choice--ed.] on the popularity of individual Shiite factions and instead represented a negotiated settlement between Shiite power blocs.
This is a reminder that proportional representation–even in a highly “extreme” version, such as Iraq’s effective nationwide PR with no legal threshold–does not preclude pre-election cooperation among separate political organizations that see advantages in not competing with one another. And the closed list ensures that such cooperating blocs not only submerge their separate identities within a broader label but also ensure adherence to their pre-election “negotiated settlement” with respect to the balance of legislative spoils.
Subsequent to the election, the Fadhila bloc and Ahmed Chalabi’s group, neither of which holds any cabinet portfolios, have split from the UIA. Fadhila does, however, control the governorate of Basra, though he is under pressure from his erstwhile UIA colleagues, who control the provincial assembly, to resign.
The article goes on to describe the main groups within the alliance and notes that the remaining groups have exhibted generally strong unity in parliament. Yet:
Beneath the surface, Shiite factions have been far less accommodating to each other, leading to increasingly violent jockeying through southern Iraq.
In other words, the “negotiated settlement” did not necessarily settle things, and the separate organizations under the UIA umbrella continue to “negotiate” by other means.
An interesting question to ponder–and I do not claim to have the answer–is whether this ongoing “negotiation” would have been less violent had the lists been open, thereby allowing the electoral value of separate organizational identities and their candidates to establish the balance within the UIA.