Sistani's Call For Election Reform Gains Backers

Oct. 5, 2009, midnight

Support is growing in Iraq's legislature for a proposal by Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini Al-SISTANI to adopt a new electoral law based on open-list proportional representation. Under that system, voters decide the orders in which individuals receive seats won by their respective parties. The National Assembly adjourned this summer without changing the closed-list system used in 2005, which permits voters to choose only among party labels and reserves control over candidate orderings to party leaders. SISTANI this week threatened to boycott January's legislative elections unless lawmakers adopted his suggestion. He argues open lists, which Iraq used in provincial elections this year, can increase voter turnout and let new voices rise through the ranks of Iraqi politics. According to some analysts, parties opposing SISTANI'S proposal are uncertain about the popularity of their candidates. They prefer the current system based on party labels because it facilitates mobilizing voters through appeals to identity politics.

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