GOVT 331 Dawisha - Iraq's Year of Voting Dangerously

GOVT 331 Dawisha - Iraq's Year of Voting Dangerously -...

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IRAQ S YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY Adeed Dawisha and Larry Diamond T he year 2005 may prove to have been one of the most politically consequential in the modern history of Iraq. In the space of less than eleven months, the country held three elections. Two of these, at the beginning and the end of the year, elected parliaments under a transi- tional and then a permanent constitution. Sandwiched between these, in October, was a referendum to approve the draft constitution. The elections took place successfully, with Iraqis voting in large numbers despite widespread logistical challenges, terrorist intimidation, and in- surgent violence. But in their entrenchment of ethnic and sectarian fissures as the main organizing principle of politics, the three votes highlighted the role and limits of electoral-system design in the quest to manage and contain potentially polarizing divisions. As the postwar reconstruction of Iraq began to move past the chal- lenge of immediate stabilization into a phase of political reconstruction, one of the key challenges that had to be faced was the selection of a system to elect first the Transitional National Assembly, and then ulti- mately a permanent National Assembly. 1 Some months after its inception in May 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) commissioned experts from IFES (established as the International Foundation for Elec- tion Systems) and elsewhere to advise on how elections might be administered in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians and their advisors were also beginning to consider the question. In theory, all options Adeed Dawisha is professor of political science at Miami University in Ohio and author of Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair (2003). He has written extensively on competitive politics in Iraq during the first half of the twentieth century and in the recent postwar period. Larry Diamond is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, coeditor of the Journal of Democracy, and author of Squan- dered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq (2005). Journal of Democracy Volume 17, Number 2 April 2006 © 2006 National Endowment for Democracy and The Johns Hopkins University Press Electoral Systems Today
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Journal of Democracy 90 were on the table: one or another form of proportional representation (PR); the single-member first-past-the-post system (FPTP); some kind of mixed system combining these two methods; the alternative vote (AV); the single transferable vote (STV); and the single nontransferable vote (SNTV). Most of these options were eliminated early on because they were either impractical or unsuited to Iraq’s political circumstances. FPTP was appealing in that it promised to limit the power of parties with autocratic tendencies and to encourage the election of independent and locally rooted representatives, diminishing the prospect of the election morphing into a polarizing referendum based on religious and ethnic identity. As a distinctly majoritarian system, however, FPTP in its pure
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