Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Iraq’s Bush v. Gore?

A Special Iraqi Electoral Court today waded even deeper into political and electoral waters, ordering a partial recount of votes cast in last month’s parliamentary election.

In so doing the court upset the Independent Higher Electoral Commission’s certification of the results and has played right into the hands of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who seems to be pulling out all the stops to win a plurality of seats in Parliament.

(My March 31 post (below) explains the politics behind the recount, which is in line with an earlier ruling by the Federal Supreme Court on the post-election government formation.)

The irony is that while Prime Minister Maliki (or any candidate for that matter) would clearly like to enjoy a plurality of parliamentary seats, this is not necessary to form a government. Constitutionally, the only advantage the party/bloc with the most seats enjoys is the first opportunity to form a government, which is accomplished by securing a coalition with a majority of parliamentary seats (163). (And even that advantage has been diminished by the earlier judicial ruling made at the prompting of the Prime Minister.) With 91 seats for Allawi’s Iraqiyya Party and 89 for Maliki’s State of Law Party neither party/bloc alone comes close. This is why the past several weeks have witnessed daily reports of intense negotiations with other parties and blocs.

The point is that either Allawi or Maliki will complete a successful negotiation with other parties to form a government or they won’t. But success or failure does not so far seem to hinge on who actually has the most seats. In other words, Prime Minister Maliki, through the judicial intervention, may in the end successfully capture the most seats. But it will be irrelevant if Allawi and the other major parties reach agreement to form a government. Conversely, the Prime Minister could put an end to the recount (and the delay, suspicions, and ill will it has generated) and focus on building a coalition to form a government — and, if successful, render meaningless Allawi’s numerical parliamentary advantage.

For now, the only certainty seems to be that the judiciary is going to come through these elections tarnished — its integrity and independence having suffered.


One response to “Iraq’s Bush v. Gore?”

  1. Modicum Avatar

    “The irony is that while Prime Minister Maliki …would clearly like to enjoy a plurality of parliamentary seats, this is not necessary to form a government.”

    This is as it should be. To be a plurality is simply to be the “largest minority” in parliament. It does not confer any special mandate or legitimacy.

    If the majority of a parliament strongly opposes the plurality party and wishes to exclude them from government then the democratic outcome is to do so.

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