(Aug. 14, 2020) On July 31, 2020, Iraqi interim Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi announced that early parliamentary elections would take place on June 6, 2021, rather than in May 2022 as originally scheduled. Al-Kadhimi, who came to power in May 2020 after months of protests had forced his predecessor to resign, said that early elections were necessary to provide stability to the country, and he assured the Iraqi public that the elections his government would organize would be transparent. Al-Kadhimi also called on the parliament to send the Law on Parliamentary Elections, which was passed by parliament in December 2019, to President Barham Salih for his signature so that it can be published in the official gazette and enter into force.
Background to the Law on Parliamentary Elections
In December 2019, during the voting session on the provisions of the Law on Parliamentary Elections, the majority of members of parliament (MPs) approved the first 14 articles of the law. However, Kurdish MPs refused to vote on articles 15 and 16 of the law and walked out of the session, claiming that these articles would negatively impact the Kurdish vote in disputed areas claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq. Regardless, the parliament went ahead and passed the law. However, the parliament has not yet referred the law to the president for his signature and publication in the official gazette.
Provisions of the Law on Parliamentary Elections
The Law on Parliamentary Elections consists of 50 provisions in nine chapters that discuss the purpose of the law, the rules for nominating and electing candidates, the electoral system and electoral districts, and voter registration. Article 49 of the new law would abolish the previous election law, Law No. 45 of 2013.
The new law would reduce the number of MPs from 329 to 251 (art. 13(1)) and the age of candidacy from 30 to 25 (art. 8(1)). It would also institute a new election system that did not exist in the previous election law that would allow voters to elect individual lawmakers instead of choosing from party lists. (Art. 15.)
Under the new law, the country would be divided into a number of electoral districts on the basis of data provided by the Ministry of Planning. (Art. 13.) Instead of groups of legislators representing an entire province, each MP would represent a specific electoral district. (Art. 16(3).) The law provides that the candidate who won the most votes would be declared the winner of the election. (Art. 15(1).)
The new law would require that 25% of the seats in parliament be reserved for women. (Art. 16(4).) It would also establish a quota of nine parliamentary seats for religious minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis. (Art. 13(2).)
Law on the Independent High Electoral Commission
In December 2019, Law No. 31 of 2019 on establishing the Independent High Electoral Commission was published in the official gazette. This law abolishes Law No. 11 of 2007. The law provides for a commission of nine members, seven of whom would be judges from regular courts. In addition, there are two other judges from the State Council (administrative court). (Law No. 31 of 2019, art. 3.) Previously, the commission consisted of only two members who were in the legal profession and MPs. (Law No. 11 of 2007, art. 3.) Law No. 31 also allows the electoral commission to seek advice from international experts to ensure the transparency and appropriate organization of parliamentary elections. (Law No. 31 of 2019, art. 21.)
The Independent High Electoral Commission has urged the president to sign the Law on Parliamentary Elections so that it can be published in the official gazette and implemented, and stated that once this is done and a budget has been provided for the commission’s work, it is ready to plan logistics related to the early parliamentary elections that will take place in 2021.