Last week I struggled not to comment on the preliminary results of the Iraqi elections even though the figures were quite shocking. Ayad Allawi’s bloc appeared to be falling behind to third place. I had a hard time restraining myself when agencies were reporting that the Rule of Law Coalition headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had won in Tikrit, the stronghold of Baathist extremists and hometown of Saddam Hussein.
I stopped myself for one reason. The figures that were announced back then did not exceed 15 percent of the overall votes therefore there is plenty of time left before we can express our doubts and suspicions. Today the overall electoral picture has become clearer as around 90 percent of the votes have been counted so far; nevertheless, the count continues to be a point of controversy. Controversy is normal; however it was quite odd to hear accusations that Allawi’s bloc, which is currently in the lead, rigged the elections, when unlike the rest of the coalitions, his bloc has no security, partisan, administrative or religious power within the government. So how could it have managed to rig the elections?
It is only natural that any results would spark controversy, anxiety, protest and suspicion from the losing side. But even suspicion requires convincing logic. The government possesses visible and non-visible power in a society traditionally obedient to the administrative system. It is highly irrational to accuse groups that have no power whatsoever of rigging the votes and since the [Independent High Electoral] Commission, which is responsible for counting the votes and announcing the results, has not yet completed its task then it would be wiser to keep silent until the counting is nearly over or to think of any debate about the results as mere discussion.
The controversy that has been raised is not surprising in view of the fact that the structure of the Iraqi ruling system is parliamentary and not presidential. People do not directly elect the presidential body; they elect a majority in parliament, half plus one, or a coalition of alliances to secure the required parliamentary majority. One of the flaws in the new Iraqi system is that people do not directly elect but rather they vote to choose parliamentarians who elect the president, prime minister and their deputies. Nevertheless, this system is regarded as the most suitable for a country with multiple currents, like Iraq.
If we look at the previous and present parliamentary elections, we can see that from the initial results it is hard for any party to sweep the elections with a majority of 51 percent. This system makes it incumbent upon candidates to accept alliances, concessions and the non-monopoly of power.
I think this controversy over vote rigging comes from the idea that every camp believes that it is capable of achieving a landslide victory by virtue of the large size of each alliance, as we have seen with the main three competing blocs. Part of the protest is largely an attempt to increase political pressure to alter the results. It could also emanate from the desire of losing candidates to provide an explanation for their defeat.
Today we are so close to crowning either al Maliki or Allawi. This makes the elections more exciting for those who are following it, as it reveals clear political progress in the society of the new state.