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Small or large constituencies for the Iraqi Parliament elections


Small or large constituencies for the Iraqi Parliament elections


Tammuz Organization for Social Development held the second electronic seminar in a series of seminars held by the organization for electoral reform on Saturday, August 15, 2020, to discuss electoral districts, in which it hosted Dr. Walid Al-Zaidi, the former Director-General of the Operations Department at the High Election Commission, and Dr. Wael Al-Bayati, Professor of Constitutional Law Assistant at Al-Mustansiriya University and moderated by colleague Vian Sheikh Ali, head of the Tammuz Organization for Social Development, who started the conversation by welcoming and referring to the first seminar that dealt with the election law and identifying its pros and cons. The new election law (incomplete), and after that the organization discussed the small and large constituencies in this second symposium and get to know the best system for the country to make Iraq a single electoral district or districts based on the provinces or dividing the provinces into small ones?

Dr. Walid Al-Zaidi talked about the fact that the proposed law has many observations that are classified into advantages and disadvantages. However, the national interest to achieve successful and fair elections at present requires proposing and adopting an electoral system and the size of constituencies commensurate with the current Iraqi reality and transcends partisan interests. The narrow individualism, which is in the aggregate, will not serve the country and may lose what remains of its stability, and that the law proposed in the form of small constituencies faces many technical and logistical challenges that require many and varied electoral papers and in huge numbers, which requires qualified cadres and financial allocations. One disadvantage is many voters living in the (proposed) small electoral district allocated for them to polling stations outside the constituency in which they live, and if we assume that they can reach those centers near or far, this will not serve them because they will be forced to vote for parties and candidates who will not be Their representatives in the elected council, and the solution is for them to move their polling station to their place of residence in the stage of updating the voter register, but this will not happen easily with the voter's reluctance to attend the elections after he finds them not running in his favor, and the influential parties design and implement them for their benefit. Perhaps the processes of updating the voter register on paper - (which were approved before the 2018 elections) provide greater facilities for the voter in updating his data, but with the adoption of the biometric card, the matter has become different. Updating and issuing cards.

(Whether short or long term) by the commission, issued outside Iraq, which requires time, money, and efforts, and without this update the voter will deprive them of voting on polling day. This means that the number of those who will be eligible and allowed to take part in the elections will not exceed 25% and if a third of this amount votes — then the official real participation rate will not exceed 10%. We witnessed in the 2018 elections that the cards of many registrants did not arrive, which prevented them from voting despite the commission’s alternative approval, which is the use of the receipt proving the registration. This is also problematic because the biometric card contains sensitive and long-term information, so how can it be replaced with the presence of talk about buying and selling biometric cards How do you get connected? Those who may visit, sell and buy and this must be taken into account when determining the time of opening the electronic registration centers and updating the voter register that requires enforcement of the law and the existence of a budget for the electoral process. Among the challenges also is the lack of a population census and accurate data, which makes dividing districts difficult according to the data available to the commission from the Ministry of Trade and between official administrative borders, which also causes unequal numbers of voters in each electoral district. The lack of clarity in the administrative boundaries between the districts, sub-districts, and smaller administrative areas, especially in densely populated areas as in the governorates of Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, and others, leads to overlap between electoral districts.

The adoption of the election law is delayed in the Parliament before each election process, and perhaps this is intentional until it becomes a reality so that you cannot make the required amendments and changes. It has already been stressed the need to adopt the election law and allocate the budget in an appropriate time. The short time within a month to a month and a half confuses the completion of electoral procedures. According to the operational timings of the commission, so it is difficult to hold elections in the sixth month of next year, with the law not yet issued and the absence of an approved budget, so the time the commission needs is at least eight months of proper work.

In summary, election experts have unanimously agreed, through the various electoral experiences in the world, that the size of the constituency is decisive in how the electoral process is conducted and the reliability of representation. The larger the electoral district, i.e. the more seats it has, the more representative and credible the results will be, especially in countries with a variety of backgrounds such as Iraq.

Our colleague Vian Sheikh Ali:

Thank you, Mr. Walid, for addressing the political and administrative problems in the small circles and the technical problems that the commission will suffer in its work, including the updating process, printing the papers, the form of the constituencies, etc. He has to take these challenges into consideration in drawing the constituency which must avoid these problems.

The defenders of the small district idea still believe that the candidate will be close to the voters and now them personally, and thus be more accurately represented in parliament, which helps in the victory of the competent and independent (according to their opinion). As for the defenders of the larger constituencies, they see it achieving greater and wider national representation, especially since the Parliament in its oversight work and legislating laws works at the national level, so the smaller constituencies are more useful for provincial or district councils elections than Parliament. It is well known that there is no ideal and integrated electoral law, but we are looking for the best law that suits us more than others.


The statement of Dr. Wael Al-Bayati:

He started by thanking the Tammuz organization, the organizers, and the attendees at the symposium. In elections, parliament had a basic idea, which was changing proportional representation, which is the basis. Small circles will remove the dominance of political parties in the Parliament, which is a lifeline, and it will produce independent representatives and competencies, and this made us have an electoral law as it is known. The first articles and up to Article (13 and 14) of the law talk about a proportional representation system, and then it happened. A coup in Article (15) where you talk about proposing projects in the distribution of parliamentary seats. Here, the Parliament left its work and ended it during the previous period of about eight months, and this is considered a disadvantage for the Parliament in legal work. I will explain the pros and cons of electoral districts from a philosophical point of view or according to global experiences in some countries regarding electoral districts, which is raised in bipartisan political systems so that form a strong and homogeneous government, blocs wanted at the beginning of the year 2020, and it is suitable for bilateral or tripartite countries, but in Iraq, there are more than (400) political parties, so it is difficult to form a harmonious and strong government. The system of small circles achieves a kind of justice between candidates. In the past, the law allowed large parties to nominate twice the number of seats in the Parliament, while individuals cannot do so, and this is a great disadvantage for individual candidates, as their chances are reduced by half compared to party lists.

This is an absence of equal opportunities for all candidates, and unfortunately, no one has challenged this law. One advantage of the electoral district system is the ease of managing the electoral process and reducing the cost of electoral campaigning, given that the constituency is small and can easily reach all voters. The smallness of the constituency will generate good relations with the voters through the submission of requests, but it will lead to the transfer of the candidate from a deputy in the legislative and supervisory authority to a service deputy, such as the one who carries his files to the state departments to solve the problems of voters and he actually provides services, but a transfer from his legislative and oversight work to something like With the Deputy Services (Ombudsman), this is considered a defect because it will change him and exclude him from his basic responsibilities in Parliament. One advantage of this system is that it will enhance responsibility towards its voters because it will be obligated to implement its electoral program and will be punished and will not be elected again. One advantage is that it also leads to a move away from unequal representation In terms of district and city representatives, in the previous elections, the largest number of candidates was concentrated in the governorate centers. As for districts and sub-districts, they may not be represented, and in the small district, the representation will be homogeneous and broad. Also, one of its advantages is that it facilitates managing the announcement of results. In a small district, it will be easier to announce the results. If we put a judge in each electoral district, it will be easy to announce the results of the small district. The procedures take a relatively long time in this announcement of the results in the central system, which may call into question the electoral results.

As for the shortcomings of the small circles, he makes the deputy committed to the needs of the small circle and turns him into a deputy service or ombudsman, as mentioned earlier. Also, the influence of large political parties will be in the circles, especially those that have a well-organized base and have political money that can sweep votes more easily and will rely on nominating well-known people and not politicians such as mukhtars, clan elders, or municipal administrators, which are social interfaces at the expense of political interfaces and personalities. The politician has a significant influence, also one of his defects is the fraud attempts, as it will be easier and easier to do through buying and selling votes, which will be very popular, especially with the presence of political money. As for the vote-counting process, it will contribute to the loss of votes, as stipulated by the law. The winner who gets the highest votes. For example, if five representatives are nominated from one constituency, the first one gets (200001), the second, the third, and the fourth gets (200,000) a thousand votes, and the fifth gets (199999). This representative will take the votes of all the other candidates with a difference of one or two votes on their behalf. And maximizing the loss of the loser, so that (20%) or one-fifth of the electorate will be represented in Parliament only.

The Parliament has three projects proposed in the division of electoral districts, the first is proposed by the Saeron bloc, which is the distribution of districts based on the number of males, meaning there are (240) electoral districts. This project is not legally enforceable except for the technical matters that Dr. Walid talked about, because the law stipulated, However, for each specific region assigned several seats, if the text had been for each constituency or more, it would have been possible to divide Iraq into electoral districts, and each district would have one electoral seat, as in Article (15) in Paragraph 3 and 4, the candidates would be rearranged according to votes either in paragraph (4) if the votes of the candidates for the last seat are equal, and here I say it frankly, there is no electoral district with one seat, as this bill cannot be legally enforceable because it conflicts with previous texts in the law. As for the second project, it is proposed to distribute electoral districts in the governorates based on the women's quota, i.e. (80) electoral districts, and thus four candidates in each district are subject to decrease (3) men and one woman, and the nomination is individual, which is an acceptable distribution if we know how the division will be Where there must be a specific standard to be divided based on it. In the third project, it is proposed that the electoral districts (18 constituencies are the governorates) be divided into four constituencies in each governorate, so we will have approximately (72) electoral districts in Iraq.

The mechanism of dividing electoral districts is one of the main issues. Thus, how can we divide electoral districts? The countries of the world have mechanisms to divide electoral districts, of which (54%) go in dividing because of population density and (42%) go based on administrative constituencies, meaning a district or a district, and so on (17%) go based on the natural and geographical situation, i.e. based on geographical phenomena and (24%) go because of common interests that bring people together, such as a city, a special electoral district, or a separate electoral district.

In the law voted on, we do not have a standard, so the legislator lacks standardization, so is the division based on population or administrative density, or because of common interests, or something else? Appeal for violating standards and breaching the rules of justice and equality.

Adopting small circles means problems that we will face in achieving the quota for minorities, although some of them have been defined in the law, and achieving a quota for women if the second project of the projects proposed for division above is not approved. There are problems with the private vote (voting by foreigners, prisoners, and security forces), which is how a suitable electoral paper will be prepared for the special vote if the electoral district is reduced, and how a suitable paper will be prepared for the outside vote, noting that the participation rate abroad was around 2%, and this figure is not effective if He went to reduce the circle. In the provinces, there are four departments for each governorate, meaning (0.5%), and this is not effective, just as spending the money of foreign voters and the need to issue a biometric card requires procedures and financial costs, especially in major countries, and in return, the voter’s presence in Iraq will be easier, especially if The percentage of voters was 2%.

Our colleague Vian Sheikh Ali:

We have heard the opinion of the professors, thankfully; I am not with the small districts and that the law did not mention how to divide the electoral districts and all the committees for drawing districts show that the district drawing will differ from one governorate to another, and this is for the political consensus between the political blocs and parties, for example, Kirkuk. There is a proposal to divide into Three constituencies, one in Hawija and its vicinity, and two for the center and the rest of Kirkuk, as if dividing the districts by quotas between the ethnic political blocs in Kirkuk so that the result is three seats for the Arabs and almost two for the Turkmen and the rest for the Kurds that the division will determine the shape and size of the blocs and the variable remains full of names of candidates To those affiliations, which is a dedication to the quota system that the Iraqis rose to get rid of.


Statement of Mr. Saad Al-Battat:

We have heard no statement by a parliamentary official about the existence of provincial and municipal elections. I think there is no intention to organize elections, given that they have existed for over 8 years, and the focus is only on the elections to the Parliament.

Dr. Mohamed Ezzat:

 The delineation of administrative borders is very difficult in Iraq. In countries that adopt the single nomination system, they are looking for partisan delineation and the democratic system has settled in them. Even if this system is implemented, the two-party system will not work for us, and it will not achieve partisan leanings. I believe that it will base the system on the majority and at the governorate level. Counting votes will facilitate counting votes. With this system we will avoid the problem of drawing administrative boundaries and the problem of counting the population. . If we rely on the majority in the provincial system, a technical problem will emerge, such as the number of ballot pages, and it would have been better for those in charge of the commission to adopt the computer system where the voter searches for the candidate on the computer and produces a paper printed with the candidate’s name and puts it in the box and that we do not rely on electronics in counting devices. And sorting only.

The question is will they will adopt this same system in the provincial elections? I think they should find deterrent penalties for those who use political money, and they do not find this in the law.
I also add my voice to your voice that the multi-district law is not appropriate at all, and that it will exclude us from clan elders and social figures that lack their capacity for oversight and legislative work. I prefer to go back to the previous law.

Mr. Abbas Al Sharifi:

We are now facing a reality and a law that defined the system of small districts in the elections. We have previously talked about returning to the majority because of the seriousness of individual representation in small circles, but there was great pressure towards a new law that is not because of proportional representation so. And 16) they have canceled the articles of open lists. The law needs to be amended, and it is not now until after its issuance and publication in the Official Gazette. Parliament cannot make any amendment now, even if it is in formulas. The question is how do we deal around the circles? I don’t think there is a vision among legislators about how to divide districts. Over 100 deputies submitted a petition to return the law based on the governorate, an electoral district, and the legal district rejected it because there is no room for an amendment to it despite its formulation which has many defects.
It is possible to discuss what the potential disadvantages are if the departments are at the governorate level or small departments, and how they are divided based on the deputy or the quota and the administrative boundaries. I think there is difficulty in implementing the law, but they will implement it.

Mr. Talib Nowruz:

Question Please provide clarification about the quota for minorities. Does the law protect quotas? Because there are big parties that compete and take a quota for them.

Mr. Ali Abd:

I want to emphasize the fugitive weapons and the importance of talking about it, because there are assassinations that are taking place in the governorates, and the fugitive will be effective, as in the previous elections.
Mr. Hussam from Al Malaz Foundation:
How can the women's quota be calculated in small circles? The proposal was to compute the quota for women in small constituencies in the following manner. They would gather all three constituencies for men and one for women. From 12 electoral districts, three women will emerge.
The second problem that may face the division of electoral districts is the existence of disputed areas that have not been resolved in the prime minister’s office, and if it is calculated based on the population census, we do not have a census or on a hundred thousand people. Najaf into three circles.
Mr. Faris Jjo, Former Minister of Science and Technology:
I would like to point out the experience that Iraq has gone through since 2003 regarding the election law. Most of the voters chose based on religious, ethnic, or sectarian sentiments without focusing on political, economic, and social rights and if you notice that this choice has disastrous results, the election law bears a large part of these results.
We need a law that links the private and the public in terms of rights and freedoms to build sound political and economic programs, so there must be a link between them, and also a successful choice for the House of Representatives. We need a law that opens up other opportunities for the citizen. I shed light so we have a law that creates and educates people and the country, and I prefer that Iraq be a single electoral district so that Ibn Basra thinks about Ibn Arbil and Ibn Arbil about Ibn Baghdad, and so on, and increases the national cohesion between the sons of the same people and will allow for choices and broader thinking. All the people of the people need each other and let us have strengthening thinking, through the contributions of your organizations, we can build a parliament that is not fanatical, away from regionalism and narrow perspectives.

Our colleague Vian Sheikh Ali:

The law within small circles has many problems and positives, but its problems and obstacles in Iraq are greater and do not work. The political blocs that legislated this law have turned to it until their mass increases in the next elections and they focus on dividing districts according to their rules and masses and did not think about other circles and I think the circles will not be It is equal in all governorates but will be subject to consensus, and there may be a governorate in which there are four and six departments and a lack of clarity regarding the implementation of the quota for women and minorities. And strengthening tribalism and regionalism, religious authority, or financial authority instead of voting based on political projects and electoral programs. We hope that they will take these opinions and observations from the responsible authorities when making amendments to the law, as there is an intention by the Prime Minister to amend the law, but after its issuance, we must prepare ourselves. To push for the amendment of the law and to propose amendments according to the observations received.

Dr. Walid Al-Zaidi's response to the statements and inquiries:
The division of electoral districts is not arbitrary or mentioned by one or two lines. In the countries of the world, the law is enacted regarding the division of districts clarifying the details of this division what are the basis of division in all the details who is the party of division, maps, and so on? In the governorate, it creates occasional disagreements between the disputed regions. We recall internationally that disputes occurred in one of the US states 150 years ago, which included white and black citizens, so the president of the state went to the constituencies in a snake form and blacks could get four seats, but he took two seats from them for whites because of the division method Going to the law for electoral districts and relying on international instruments, such as a treaty dating back to 1961.
I think making the governorate a single electoral district is the safest at present. As for electronic voting, it is excluded now, and regarding the electoral spending ceiling, and they find this in the political parties' law.
They cannot match the voter register with the national card register, and there is no relationship between them. The further extension is to complete the issuance of the national card for all Iraqis. It is necessary to rely on the voter register. We urge updating the data and reducing the number of deprived people who are not allowed in the upcoming elections from 44% to 14%.

Dr. Wael Al-Bayati's response:

It is difficult to go to electronic voting now, the only thing we have is the counting and sorting devices which are questionable. Regarding the quota for minorities, the law has a loophole. The Yazidi were granted one seat, and they deserve three seats, and they will challenge it because they have a decision to do so from the Federal Court.
As for the law, it is not permissible for it to be issued with every electoral process because they will issue it according to the sizes of the blocs and parties, which I call the laws (the determinants). The amended law should apply to the elections following the next electoral process. Regarding the arms restriction, it relates this to the political parties' law and their will. I also hope that the three elections will take place simultaneously and merge them into one basket, knowing that there are approximately four million voters who did not receive their biometric card. As for Iraq's adoption of a single electoral district, two political parties have previously demanded it.

The statement of Mrs. Suhad:
The question: What are the guarantees for holding fair elections in the presence of the deep state?
Our colleague Vian Sheikh Ali:
The guarantee is the existence of guarantee laws, the conduct of fair and transparent elections, a fair judiciary, and a professional commission that manages the electoral process, and thus we get rid of the deep state.

Statement of Ms. Marwa Al-Jumaili:

My note is how did they set the date for the sixth month?
I think it was necessary to go to the street and educate the people and get their opinions about the division of districts by Parliament. Diyala will divide it into two districts and some tension between them may cause problems. As for electronic devices, they will not bear the high temperatures, especially in the absence of means of cooling, which may cause a delay in the voting process.
Also, the employees work under contracts and there is no fixation for them, which makes them subject to pressure from different sides.


The statement  of Mr. Wafa Sabah:

I was in the presidential committee to write the law with (12) persons specialized in psychology, political science, law, and the media. We continued for a month to draft the commission's law and the election law, but the law was subject to amendments after it arrives in the prime minister at the time of Adel Abdul Mahdi. Regarding districts, they merge some districts whose population does not reach one hundred thousand people with another district or with the governorate center, and the intention was to make Iraq (329) an electoral district, meaning one deputy for each district. Each law has its pros and cons. Among the positives of this law is the stipulation that the candidate must be a resident of five years in the constituency for which he is running, and they forbid it to nominate individuals in other than their places of residence and governorates other than their governorates. It is also a law that saves us from the Saint-Lego system, but it faces challenges when we return to the Ministry of Planning They answered the number of districts in Iraq, so the registrant had (126) qada'a, and the actual one was (159). These are problems and there are problems in many districts, including in Karbala governorate, for example, in Kurdistan and others.

Dr. Walid Al-Zaidi:

The guarantee for the integrity of the elections is the laws that must be strengthened, such as the political parties' law, money, and arms control. The commission’s law, the commission’s structure, the provision of a safe environment, how to deal with the epidemic, and the impact of the hot weather must all be well studied.

Dr. Wael Al-Bayati:

I add to the integrity of the elections is the wide participation, because boycotting the elections means leaving the field to others. One must be chosen, even if the important thing does not win, the broad participation.

Our colleague Vian Sheikh Ali:

At the end of the symposium, thank you all. We will have seminars later on dealing with various topics, including the quota for women and minorities. The Election Commission will also be hosted during the next sessions. Thank you and all the participants.

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