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Minorities' Quota: Right to Representation and Effectiveness in the Iraqi Parliament


Minorities' Quota: Right to Representation and Effectiveness in the Iraqi Parliament


On Thursday 27 August 2020, Tammuz Organization for Social Development held a cyber dialogue seminar to discuss the quota system for minorities in the election law and the impact of the quota on the rights of minorities in the performance of the Iraqi parliament, in the organization’s third symposium in a series of seminars held by the organization on democratic matters to achieve electoral reform. The seminar was held via the Zoom app.

The organization had  Dr. Taghreed Abdel Qader, a former Dean of the Faculty of Law at Al-Mustansiriya University, and Mr. of human rights activist Hussam Abdullah, Executive Director of the Yazidi Center for Documentation, to provide specialized interventions on the seminar and discuss with them by the participants, who exceeded 60, who are in a diverse presence of active academics, specialists, politicians, and representatives For minorities who enriched the discussion with their valuable inputs.

After the seminar was opened, the attendees were   welcomed by our colleague Vian Sheikh Ali, head of the Tammuz organization, who directed the session and clarified its work context and goal, and presented a summary that the origin is that minorities are essential parts of the components of the Iraqi people and therefore all are equal citizens before the law with rights and duties, and the importance of minority representation In the House of Representatives and their effective participation in the political process, the quota was designated as an empowering tool that guarantees the participation of minority representatives, provided that it is allocated in a manner appropriate to the size of the component and its location and away from the influence of non-minority political parties that seek to seize and dominate the quota of minorities in a way that empties the quota of its essence and true goal And to know more about the reality of the quota and the challenges it faces, as well as suggestions and solutions to achieve real benefit from allocating them, the guests of the symposium prefer to present their interventions, which are summarized:

Dr. Taghreed Abdelkader:

The doctor began her intervention by presenting the conditions of Iraq in the years leading up to the change in 2003, which witnessed a narrowing and restriction that caused the migration of many Iraqis, which led to the loss of the beauty of the Iraqi mosaic represented by the diversity of its components. With the process of democratic transformation started by Iraq since preparing the constitution, in which the Iraqi legislator was inspired by the principle of humanity stipulated in international conventions, he adopted the experience of democratic governance in the form of representative representation and ensured the representation of minorities in the Iraqi parliament under the modern democracies system, which is represented by-elections and the people's choice of their representatives to carry out legislative and oversight processes Democracy relies on human rights as the basis for its existence and its effective work in achieving equality among all and respecting their rights and freedoms and equality before the law, and because democracy works through general and free elections, and the representatives of the people are those who get a vote majority and thus the rule becomes the majority at the expense of the rights of the minority which It may generate separatist tendencies or conflicts between the majority and the minority. Therefore, the Iraqi legislator alerted these problems early and approved principles and texts in the constitution that guarantee the rights of all members of the Iraqi people and their equality in law, in Articles 4 (1, 2, 3) that stipulate the unity of Iraq and the guarantee of rights All its components without discrimination while respecting their own rights and freedom to express their ideas and practice their beliefs and language Charges, Article (7) of the constitution prohibits any entity that pursues racism, terrorism, or apostasy, or incites or promotes it. Also, Article (9) affirmed the right to the participation of all components in the army and security forces, besides other articles that guarantee equality before the law and obligate the state to pay attention to all the various Iraqi legacies and cultures and to protect every individual from practicing political, religious or intellectual coercion against him

Article (49) of the Iraqi constitution stipulates that all Iraqis be represented in the House of Representatives by allocating a seat to every 100,000 people chosen by-elections and taking into account the representation of all components of the people. So the Iraqi constitution remedies the crises of the rest of the countries in adopting democracy and the rule of the majority by setting articles and texts that guarantee the participation of all components, respect their rights and beliefs, and involve them in governance, especially legislation.

Dr. Taghreed ‘s assessment of the Iraqi experience after reviewing the constitutional texts and election laws from 2004 until the last (incomplete) law and noting that electoral laws achieve the goal set by the constitution, which is that “authority is exercised with respect for human rights and that all the people are represented in the state’s authorities, foremost among them. The legislative authority ", taking into account the difficulty of representing all components of the people for the division of the people and its unbalanced appreciation because of the cultural, social and political heritage, as well as the lack of a real census of the population to indicate the true proportions of the components of the people, noting that most of the components of the Iraqi people have been subjected to systematic campaigns of genocide And the displacement and the topographical change of the population that is not the large migration of the people out of Iraq for many reasons. Besides, the three authorities in Iraq were subject to a customary division, placing the authorities in the hands of components and not others. In analyzing percentages and minority quotas in election laws and the systems of the High Electoral Commission, it recognizes the fact that the representation of the components in the Iraqi parliament does not reach the level of ambition, especially with the fragmentation of the votes of the components within the votes of the large blocs, so that the representative of the component becomes weak and does not have the initiative to provide the demands and needs of those who represent them.

The proposal is to reconsider the representation of the components of the Iraqi people in the House of Representatives in terms of number and geographical distribution under the democratic rules approved by the constitution, and that the election law includes a legal means or rule that ensures that all Iraqi components get several seats in a manner that facilitates their participation in the political decision and the exercise of their right Legislation and oversight under the constitution and the law.

Mr. Hussam Abdullah:

When talking about minorities, I mean talking about the right and a group of rights, and it is not discrimination as much as what kind of protection for rights. Minorities, according to the international description, are the fewest and not dominating the decision-making power and consider themselves and their identity as a minority. When talking about the quota, the right to take part in politics must be taken into account for all Iraqis, including minorities, and thus a quota has been set for minorities, which were set at its inception in a period in which there is no population census and there is no complete knowledge and knowledge about the dimensions of this right and its exercise and therefore these first assignments came from the number of seats For the Christians, the Yazidi, the Sabeans, and then the Faili Kurd quota, as the quota is not a favor, but entitlement and right that must be observed by international standards, human rights, and Iraqi laws? The quota that came and is in force now is paralyzed because it is not appropriate in terms of numbers and is not activated in terms of real representation of all minorities and is not activated in terms of performance in the corridors of the House of Representatives and it is a peg for many political blocs through which they pass what they want from the agendas. The children of minorities did not feel the results of the quota on their societies, which leads us to the question of whether it is effective and is there a need for its survival or improvement, or is it better to eliminate it. The quota paralyzed in representation means that it did not represent all the components and was limited to the four minorities only under the pretext they were mentioned in the constitution, while other components have the right to representation and take part in political decisions, such as Kaka's, Zoroastrianism, Baha'i, and black-skinned people, for it to be real participation. And to say that it paralyzes the quota in terms of numbers for the lack of knowledge of the criterion that was adopted in determining the number of seats for each component.

The mindset of the Iraqi legislator is still not agreeable to ​​the idea that rights need a guarantee and clear standards in practice. The poor performance of the minority for the absence of guarantees in the Parliament system that preserves the participation of members of minorities in the sense of discussing the Personal Status Law under Article 41, so dealing is done by voting, more and less, and not by guaranteeing rights and not prejudice to them.

To strengthen the quota, we present a proposal that minorities may veto issues related to the rights and conditions of minorities. To test the experience, we note the existence of great pressures and practices that make representatives of minorities unable to implement the aspirations of their children, for example, no laws on the rights of minorities were submitted, except for the draft law on survivors that was submitted by the Presidency of the Republic and not through the efforts of minority representatives. The painful experience, because it was subjected to the political decision of quota representatives, such as election cases and support for certain candidates close to political blocs with votes from outside the people of the component, makes the representatives of minorities subordinate to the block that supported it.

There is also an initiative by the Minorities Alliance to amend Article 17 of the Special Elections Law in the electoral register which is a sensitive and important issue as the use of the electoral register in every election process benefits large political blocs by voting for a candidate. The proposal is to prepare a special register for members of minorities, such as the register for the security forces, and we may consider it to be opposed to the original right to take part, citizenship and vote only for the people of the quota, so ​​choice was put forward, meaning that they can not register in the special register until they vote except for the quota lists.

Minority representatives could activate none of the constitutional provisions that guarantee the rights of minorities, such as Article 125, which gives full rights to minorities and needs a law to regulate this, but representatives of minorities in Parliament could not do so. Minority areas are exposed to demographic change, political takeover, and neglect even in the security decision and what happened in Sinjar and elsewhere because of the absence of minority representation. Today, there is no judge from among the minorities because they could not amend the law of the Judicial Institute, and if students from the Yazidi or members of minorities are accepted into the Judicial Institute, when they graduate from the institute, they become public prosecutors instead of judges because of the ruling mentality, so it needs to be amended starting from the quota of Parliament And then to other institutions such as the government and the judiciary.

Vian Sheikh Ali:

As an election monitoring organization, we emphasize the acquisition of the quota by the large political blocs. With each election process, this is organized more precisely, whether by taking advantage of the experiences of the blocks among them according to the districts in which they have a base or their close component. Even when allocating seats, the process is according to the blocs ’accounts. As happened in the Faili Kurd Quota and the account of the only seat within a central governorate district, with the presence of Faili in a greater percentage in Baghdad, Diyala and others. Thus, the large block's work to empty the quota of its proper goal.

Attendance interventions made by each of :

Dr. Wael Munther Al-Bayati (Academic):

The Iraqi legislator transferred the paragraph related to the allocation of the minority quota from the previous law to the new law without noting that the previous law was because the governorate is one district, and in this law the governorate will be more than one district, so how will the constituency of the Shabak quota, the Faili Kurds and the Yazidis be determined, which will cause problems that may have been bypassed In the quota of Christ and the Sabeans, considering them as one circle. Also, with regard to the allocation of the Yazidi quota, one seat is unconstitutional according to the Federal Court’s decision, and it is expected to be challenged upon its issuance. As for talking about abolishing the quota, this is not possible. Without it, according to previous experiences, it is difficult to achieve adequate representation.

Mr. Khaled Al-Roumi (Former Deputy for Sabian-Mandaean Kota):

There are fundamental issues regarding the performance of minority quota representatives, including challenges with constitutional articles, such as prohibiting the enactment of every law that contradicts the tenets of Islam, and thus this article was an obstacle to many laws that concern minorities such as the Unified Card Law, and regarding the Yazidi quota, I think the allocation is in this law He will not be challenged because the court’s decision is conditional on the general population census, which has not yet occurred. There are also major problems facing the work of representatives of minorities in the House of Representatives considering the mentality of non-acceptance of the other by most of the members of Parliament, and the number of representatives is tiny, not commensurate with the size of the tasks assigned to them of legislation, monitoring and following up the work of committees and meetings, which are often carried out in Intersecting times, besides the fact that the legislation of the law is submitted by government projects, which makes it difficult to submit bills by quota representatives. The quota is not in numbers and allocations, but rather its goal is to provide fixed seats for each component, regardless of their number, so that their representatives can carry out their roles, especially if it increases with representatives of minorities within the national lists, and also one challenge facing the performance of the quota representatives is the political acquisition of the quota which was mentioned, but In spite of everything, I believe that a quota representative can work for the rights of its constituent without conflict with the interests of other blocs.

 Mr. Serbast Mustafa (expert and former head of the Election Commission):

The quota issue goes back to 1924, and then the assignments and cancellations followed. Regarding the registry of voters, since 2006, I submitted a project to prepare a special registry for the children of the components, and thus they have the right to join it and vote for the minority representative in the quota or not to join and vote outside the quota. Regarding the Faili Kurd quota, it was more appropriate to allocate a quota seat for them in Baghdad before the Wasit seat, based on the votes got by their candidate in the provincial council elections, which exceeded 30,000 votes. He also suggested that Iraq be adopted as a single electoral district for the components of the Shabak and Yazidis, or to make Nineveh governorate a single district for them instead of restricting them to a district, with the need to pay attention to their whereabouts after displacement?

 Mr. Saad Al-Rawi (election expert):

The problem of minorities remains due to the absence of the Iraqi national project and there is no satisfaction with all components and everyone feels injustice, just as each minority needs a special electoral register, and without the separation of powers and their non-interference and the rule of law, no law can succeed, and according to the new election law there is a difficulty in demarcating Electoral districts and the greatest difficulty in drawing minority districts.

 Mr. Ali Al-Keldani

 (activist): He asked about the about the meaning of the quota, is it an allocation based on religion or nationality, presenting the Muslim religious affiliation and Chaldean national affiliation as a case of how to deal with it.

Activist Sarkis Youhanna:

Minorities are an internationally approved designation and have rights and privileges, there is no satisfactory representation of minorities because not everyone is included in the quota, and the problems of acquiring quota seats by influential political parties, which began since the Kurdistan Parliament elections in 1992 and then applied in the Iraqi Parliament, and thus the influential blocs achieved an expansion of their seats on the one hand. And beautify its image in front of the international community and prevent the real voice of minorities in Parliament, and dealing with representatives of minorities in Parliament is restricted, and in many important national issues, the views of representatives of minorities are rejected as they do not include them. Among the proposed solutions is the adoption of a special electoral register to limit the votes of minorities to members of minorities, and the right to use the veto for representatives of minorities in issues related to the rights of their constituents. It is also possible to benefit from some experiences in restricting the vote to the children of minorities, such as if the polling stations are specific to the component, perhaps through which the members of the component are known from among the supervisors of the center.

Ms. Fadwa Tohme

is an activist: The name of minorities is an international denomination, but I consider them components because they are genuine Iraqi components. I also wonder about what the representatives of minorities in Parliament presented to their components, and I am in favor of the general vote for competencies regardless of their affiliation and moving away from limiting affiliation to a specific component.

Talib Nowruz (activist and defender of minority rights):

 He asked about the standards that protect the children of minorities, and about what was mentioned about preparing an electoral register for the minority, which could be useful and approved for many minorities, but for the Felis it will be difficult because the criterion for their accreditation is not available, whether by identity, region or A specific shape. It also confirms the political acquisition of the quota, including Faili. The number of seats allocated to the quota is not a measure of performing the actors because it poses challenges and needs the right to use the veto at least.

Fares Jjo, political activist and former minister:

The main problem lies in the constitution and its clear discrimination that caused failing to achieve the goal of the quota and the effective performance of its representatives, including the mention of discrimination for some rituals and practices without other components, and the restrictive text for many projects regarding the rejection of every law that contradicts Islamic principles. And then the practices that have entrenched disparities and marginalization, and we believe the solution is through the constitution, and setting a relative quota instead of numerical, such as 10% for minorities, so the goal is not only representation and participation, but an encouragement for the survival of the children of these minorities in Iraq and the strengthening of their citizenship.

Khaled Al-Khalidi is a civil activist:

The main thing is that the constitution stipulates rights granted to minorities and thus a power that grants some rights to a less powerful force, and also opposes the articles of the constitution while on the one hand it explicitly rejects any law that contradicts the tenets of Islam and at the same time provides other articles to guarantee freedom of expression and beliefs, so how can this be regulated!! In addition to the subject of political appropriation to which minorities are exposed, which does not affect the right to representation only, but also obliterates the identities and cultures of minority components among large components.

Dr.. Abdul Razzaq Ali (activist and academic):

 The October Uprising is the basis and the impetus for the legislation of the current electoral law, and the sacrifices made in the uprising result from years of civil work, during which Iraq has been exposed because of the quota system too many crises and disasters, which makes us in front of the proposal to work with the system of a single large national electoral district that guarantees the rights of all people away from quotas. And it promotes Iraqi citizenship. The basis for the elections is the existence of a discreet election record and the need to work to prepare it accurately.

Nawzad Al-Hakim (Informer):

I believe that the quota was allocated on a national, not religious, basis in the Kurdistan Parliament and the Iraqi Parliament.

Several interventions were also given in writing in comments such as Dr. Alaa Al-Khazraji, Mrs. Bashayer and other followers of the live broadcast on Facebook, which was repeated with the rest of the interventions and were implicitly answered in the responses of the professors.

Dr. Taghreed Abdelkader's response:

The constitution did not explicitly prohibit the issuance of laws, but the article that states that Islam does not contradict the principles of Islam does not mean that it prohibits the laws and rights of minorities. As for some laws, such as the national card and the national anthem, they are generally preserved public rights that do not intend to discriminate, and the use of the minority designation, despite being an international designation, is not appropriate for what these components represent in terms of originality and heritage in Iraq and its civilization, and we have national relations with them that make us seek To strengthen the Iraqi principle on the rest of the affiliations. I clarified that the representation of representatives of minorities does not meet the level of ambition and needs to increase the numbers.

Reply. Professor Hussam Abdullah:

Initially, I radically disagreed with some of what was put forward, especially not adopting the designation of minorities, as it is an international denomination that cannot be reduced from a legal and legal point of view, and minorities, meaning the original in the right, not divisions and sectarianism, but protection for the specifics of specific groups with cultures, religions and characteristics far away and does not mean reducing our non-Readiness to naming minorities, on the contrary, we are Iraqis We demand privacy protection according to international standards. And there is no real representation of minorities even in the Kurdistan Region. As for proposing a special electoral register for minorities, which would be optional regarding registration in it, to protect minorities and their rights from unfairness and political exploitation, and protecting minorities from obliterating the identity of other identities.

In conclusion, the seminar which was full of discussion, ended after stressing the importance of a quota to protect the rights of minorities and activating their political participation and the need to develop mechanisms to ensure better representation in terms of number, gender and performance, most notably preparing a special electoral register and giving the right to use the veto.

To have an overall follow the seminar, you can check the live video on Tammuz organization's Facebook page via the following link:





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