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Politics and power in Iraq. The scene in 2009. Posters for the elections are prepared in a printing shop in Baghdad. They call on Iraqis to vote to build a new Iraq. (Photo: AP/WWP, Hadi Mizban. From http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/iraqelect/primer.htm) .

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politics and power in iraq

Politics and power in Iraq

The scene in 2009

Posters for the elections are prepared in a printing shop in Baghdad. They call on Iraqis to vote to build a new Iraq.(Photo: AP/WWP, Hadi Mizban. From http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/iraqelect/primer.htm)

selection of leadership parliamentary system
Selection of Leadership: Parliamentary system

(37 members, do not have to be from Nat. Assembly)

President & 2 VPs (4 year terms, max. two terms)

Prime Minister


2/3 majority





Council of Representatives

(275 seats, 4-year terms)

     VOTERS      


duties of presidency
Largely ceremonial

“Article 67: The President of the Republic is the Head of the State and a symbol of the unity of the country”

To represent the sovereignty of Iraq and oversee the higher affairs of the country

Ratifies legislation, and can veto any legislation passed by the Council of Reps (if done within 15 days after passage of legislation) Veto can be overturned by a 2/3 majority of the National Assembly.

Ratify death sentences

Ceremonial commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces  

Council of Representatives has the power to remove any member of the Presidency Council of the State for incompetence or lack of integrity by a three-fourths majority of its members’ votes.

Duties of Presidency
duties of prime minister
Duties of Prime Minister
  • Day-to-day responsibility for the management of the government
  • Plan and execute general policy of the state
  • Propose bills, prepare draft of budget, negotiate international agreements
  • Commander in chief

PM Al Maliki attends a re-opening ceremony of the Iraq National Musem. Photo: Da`wa web site, www.islamicdawaparty.com

how voters vote proportional representation
How voters vote: proportional representation
  • 230/275 seats allocated by PR voting in 18 governorates
    • No election threshold
  • Remaining 45 seats distributed at national level
  • “Closed” list system
    • Parties choose candidates themselves and rank them
  • Minimum of 25% of seats must be held by women (1/3 candidates)

Polling station head explains ballot papers to Iraqi election officials at Az Zubayr, southern Iraq. (AP/WWP, Andrew Parsons)http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/iraqelect/primer.htm

formal distribution of power federal system
Article 116: “The federal system in the Republic of Iraq is made up of a decentralized capital, regions,

and governorates, as well as local administrations.”

18 governorates & 1 region (Kurdistan, includes three governorates)

Formal distribution of power : Federal system

Kurdistan National Assembly,

111 members,

women have 29 seats

Source: USAid, Rep. of Iraq District Government Field Manual, 2007


2005 Iraqi Constitution

The Preamble

In the name of God, the Most merciful, the Most compassionate

{We have honored the sons of Adam}

We, the people of Mesopotamia, the homeland of the apostles and prophets, resting place of the

virtuous imams, cradle of civilization, crafters of writing, and home of numeration. Upon our

land the first law made by man was passed, and the oldest pact of just governance was inscribed,

and upon our soil the saints and companions of the Prophet prayed, philosophers and scientists

theorized, and writers and poets excelled;

Acknowledging God’s right over us, and in fulfillment of the call of our homeland and citizens,

and in a response to the call of our religious and national leaderships and the determination of

our great authorities and of our leaders and politicians, and in the midst of international support

from our friends and those who love us, marched for the first time in our history towards the

ballot boxes by the millions, men and women, young and old, on the thirtieth of January 2005,

invoking the pains of sectarian oppression inflicted by the autocratic clique and inspired by the

tragedies of Iraq’s martyrs, Shiite and Sunni, Arabs and Kurds and Turkmen and from all other

components of the people, and recollecting the darkness of the ravage of the holy cities and the

South in the Sha’abaniyya uprising and burnt by the flames of grief of the mass graves, the

marshes, Al-Dujail and others and articulating the sufferings of racial oppression in the

massacres of Halabcha, Barzan, Anfal and the Fayli Kurds and inspired by the ordeals of the

Turkmen in Bashir and the sufferings of the people of the western region, as is the case in the

remaining areas of Iraq where the people suffered from the liquidation of their leaders, symbols,

and Sheiks and from the displacement of their skilled individuals and from drying out of its

cultural and intellectual wells, so we sought hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder to create our

new Iraq, the Iraq of the future, free from sectarianism, racism, complex of regional attachment,

discrimination, and exclusion.


Article 1:

The Republic of Iraq is a single federal, independent and fully sovereign state in which the system of government is republican, representative, parliamentary, and democratic, and this Constitution is a guarantor of the unity of Iraq.

Article 2:

First: Islam is the official religion of the State and is a foundation source of


A. No law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam

B. No law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy.

C. No law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms

stipulated in this Constitution.

Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the

Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief

and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans.

Article 3:

Iraq is a country of multiple nationalities, religions, and sects. It is a founding and active member in the Arab League and is committed to its charter, and it is part of the Islamic world.

Article 4:

First: The Arabic language and the Kurdish language are the two official

languages of Iraq. The right of Iraqis to educate their children in their mother

tongue, such as Turkmen, Syriac, and Armenian shall be guaranteed in

government educational institutions in accordance with educational guidelines, or

in any other language in private educational institutions.

results of dec 2005 national elections
Results of Dec. 2005 National Elections
  • 19 political coalitions, 307 political entities registered; 7,655 candidates certified.
  • 76.4% voter turnout
  • The biggest winners:
    • United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite coalition-): 41% vote, 128 Seats
      • Most important parties: Da`wa & ISCI (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq)
    • Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (Kurdish parties): 21.7 % 53 seats
      • Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
    • Iraqi Accord (Consensus) Front (Sunni Islamist coalition): 15.1%, 44 seats
    • Iraqi National List (secular, Sunni and Shiite): 8%, 25 seats
results of jan 2009 provincial elections
Results of Jan. 2009 Provincial Elections
  • Held in 14 governorates to replace local councils
    • Some special seats for religious minorities (mostly Christians)
    • Open list, PR voting
  • 51% turnout
  • Results: Da`wa wins big (gets most votes in 9/14 provinces), ISCI and Sadrists lose ground.

And the next Iraqi National Elections are in 8 months…

the players da wa
Founded 1957 to promote Islamic values and create Islamic state in Iraq

Conservative Shiite Islamist

organizational sources of most Shiite Islamist parties in Iraq today

Key difference with Iranian Khomeinist ideas: rule not by ulema but by the ummah (community)

Based in Tehran 1979-2003, still gets funding from Iran

Waged armed struggle against Ba`th regime

Leading theologian Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (executed by the Ba`th in 1980)

Led by PM Nouri Mohammed Hassan Al-Maliki

The players: Da`wa

Excerpt from The Da`wa Party Program

Our  Values


We believe that one of the most important values in Islam is Liberty. Taking away our liberty and freedom takes away our dignity and denies us the most fundamental human right. On a social level, only when we enjoy the freedom of thought and action, can we innovate and modernise. On an individual level, only when we are free, can we seek perfection in our intentions and actions. Only then, can we be held responsible for our actions before God. From the day Iraq was born, regime after regime has denied Iraqis this fundamental right. As a party born to the task of defending the liberty of the people, we lost tens of thousands in the way of fighting Saddam’s dictatorial rule. With his fall, the liberty of the people has finally been retained. For our part, we will work tirelessly to ensure that the sacrifices Iraqis have made to win back their freedom and liberty will never be reversed.


Central to our vision on society, is the concept of equality as enshrined in Islam. God does not discriminate between people of different race or ethnicity, rather He judges us by virtue of our actions. In Iraq, Baathist rule was based on inequality, discrimination and prejudice: the rights of Iraqi Kurds were denied because they were not Arab, the rights of Iraqi Shiites were denied because they were not Sunni. We believe that all Iraqis are equal, regardless of their ethnicity or religious sect, and in the new Iraq, we are committed to ensuring that this concept of equal citizenship becomes an irrevocable reality.


The issue of justice forms a core tenant in Islam. Peace and prosperity can only be attained if justice is present. Under Saddam, there was no justice in the law: innocent Iraqis were imprisoned, tortured and killed for no reason other than to terrorise Iraqis into submission. The new Iraq must replace the injustice of old times, with a fair and impartial Judiciary capable of administering justice for all Iraqis. This change must be demonstrated in the way we treat former members of Saddam’s Baath party who carried out crimes against the Iraqi people. The guilty must be punished for their actions, but only after a fair trial and a thorough and transparent judicial process.


From Da`wa’s official web site: http://www.islamicdawaparty.com/

other big parties
Other big parties
  • Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI, or formerly SCIRI)
    • Founded 1982, offshoot from Da`wa
    • Hakim family leadership: led by Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim until his 2003 assassination, now led by his brother Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
    • Heavily Iran-influenced: Follows Shiite ideology of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, (rule by ulema), supported Iran in Iran-Iraq war, receives support from Iran, supports decentralized Iraq
    • More elite-based, strongest support in the south (Basra)
sadrist movement
Sadrist movement
  • Anti-Ba`th resistance, began in early 1990s after 1st Gulf War
  • Today led by Muqtada al-Sadr, of al-Sadr family
    • son of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (distant relative of the other al-Sadr), killed 1999
    • Ayatollah al-Sadr and the Shiite masses (Sadr City)
    • Social base among Shiite urban poor
    • Sunni-Shiite unity?
  • Mahdi Army
  • Strongholds: parts of Baghdad, some parts of the south
  • Sadrist Bloc holds 30 seats in parliament
    • Shift from armed to political resistance?
  • Splinter offshoot party: Islamic Virtue Party
other players
Other players
  • Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani
  • Kurdish groups and the KRG
  • Tribes
  • Al-Qaeda in Iraq
  • “Sons of Iraq”
  • And Iran and the U.S….