Iraqis continue to protest controversial electoral law amendment

Protests continued in Iraq on Tuesday against a controversial reform of the country’s electoral law that critics say will hurt smaller and independent political parties.

Background: The amendment to the Iraqi Provincial Council Election Law, which governs regional elections, was read in parliament for the first time in February. The amendment was proposed by the ruling Coordination Framework political bloc, which includes Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudan. The amendment adopts the Sainte-Lague method, which is a party-list proportional representation system, to allocate seats in provincial parliaments. It also increases the size of constituencies and specifies only one constituency per province. These rules were in place for the last provincial elections in Iraq in 2013.

The amendment contrasts with the current law which uses a multi-district system to allocate votes to individual candidates — not political parties. The current law was passed in 2020 in response to the nationwide Tishreen protests that began the year before. The protests led to the emergence of more independent political activists. The 2020 law also increased the number of constituencies in each province.

Many smaller political activists believe the amendment will benefit Iraq’s major parties at their expense, Al-Monitor Iraq contributor Ali Mamouri reported in February.

Protests continued throughout Parliament’s consideration of the amendment. The Associated Press reported that hundreds of people protested the amendment in Baghdad in February. Protests also took place on Saturday before the parliamentary vote on the amendment.

The amendment was passed Monday in a 206-12 vote, according to the AP.

The protests are not limited to Baghdad. Iraqi news outlet Shafaq reported that protests were taking place on Tuesday in Nasiriyah in southern Dhi Qar province. Security forces dispersed the protesters and allegedly burned their tents, according to the outlet.

Why it’s important: The controversy comes at a vulnerable time for Iraq. The economic crisis in Iraq is worsening, as the prices of necessities continue to rise.

In late August, violent clashes broke out between supporters of Shiite cleric Muqatada al-Sadr and supporters of the Coordination Framework as well as Iranian-backed militias. The violence left at least 30 people dead. Sudan became prime minister in October after months of political wrangling. Iraq’s last parliamentary elections took place a year before he took office.

What’s next: The next provincial elections in Iraq are scheduled to take place on 6 November.

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