An ethno-sectarian democracy!
By Hiwa Osman - for ekurd.net
November 24, 2010
Even as Iraq’s leaders congratulate each other on
resolving bitter disputes over the country’s top
executive positions, another battle has emerged for
the coveted ministerial posts.
This new round of political jockeying has raised the
most pressing question facing the new Iraq: is Iraq
a true democracy or an ethno-sectarian system? Is it
ruled by elections and votes or is it shackled to
the dysfunctional quota system?
Terms, like “power-sharing” and “unity government,”
are making headlines, but the reality is much
different. Over the next month, the political blocs
will try to answer the questions posed above, and,
so far, it seems that the ethno-sectarian quota are
beating out votes.
One of the key issues around the head of Iraqiya,
Ayad Allawi, receiving one of the other two top
posts, president or speaker of parliament, was that
he was a Shia, even though he headed a mostly Sunni
Hiwa Osman, IWPR Iraq’s country director, previously
served as Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s media
The “logic” of Iraqi
politics today dictates that the top three slots –
prime minister, speaker of parliament and president
– are distributed between Shia, Sunni and Kurds.
Even so, the divvying up of top slots was still a
major hurdle over the past eight months of
With that, however, the simple math is over.
Observers wishing to decipher the next round of
government formation had better use a calculator.
As in the last government formation, a complex
system gives points for each senior position. A
rough breakdown of this allotment, pending a final
agreement of the blocs, is as follows; prime
(12), president (10), deputy prime minister or
speaker (8), vice-president (8), sovereign minister
(8), production minister (6), service minister (5),
minister of state (3).
This system also gives each bloc participating in
government a number of points based on the number of
seats they have in parliament. The seats-to-points
ratio is decided by the negotiating teams of the
blocs. In the last election, it was one point for
every two seats. This time, some negotiators are
talking about 2.6 seats for each point.
For each post taken, the allocated points are then
deducted from the relevant bloc’s total. Given that
all the players are participating in government this
time, the demand for ministerial posts is at an
all-time high. As usual, each bloc is counting on a
lot more than they deserve in accordance with this
system. Most of them would be thinking in quota
terms and not in points. The question her is which
system would prevail, points or quota.
The Kurds, for example, would have used most of
their electoral points by the time a deputy prime
minister is appointed. If the points system is
applied, the government would have no Kurdish
In another scenario, if Allawi or another leading
Shia member of the Iraqiya bloc receives a
high-profile post that gobbles up a big share of
points, Sunnis who still see Allawi as a Shia and
not member of Iraqiya, would regard this as
disturbing the “national balance” as there would be
more Shia than Sunnis in the new cabinet.
In the end, such dilemmas prove that Iraq’s
political math still has its own rules. The sad
truth is that Iraq remains an ethno-sectarian state,
one which acts and governs accordingly. There is
clearly still more importance given to
representation quotas than the election results. The
results in governance speak for themselves. This
All Iraqis have all seen how the ethno-sectarian
quota system has contributed to the increase of
corruption and decrease of security. For this to be
redressed, two key measures need to be taken by the
next government. First, true national
reconciliation. Second, all outstanding issues
between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional
Government must be worked out.
These two important initiatives would be a step
towards ending quota and affording democratic rights
and equal opportunities for all Iraqis, regardless
of ethnicity or sect.
Although these principles are carefully enshrined in
the constitution and repeated almost daily by Iraqi
leaders, they are hard to come by in the streets.
Until this happens, Iraq will remain an
ethno-sectarian state in which no one truly trusts
each other and all the groups looking for
protection, compensation or the upper hand.
In such a divided system, designed in theory as an
equalizer, big groups get less than they deserve and
small groups get more than they deserve.
is IWPR’s country director in Iraq, previously served as
Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s media adviser. You
may visit Osman's website at http://www.hiwaosman.com/
Copyright © 2010 ekurd.net
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