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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] Hi Yasser - thanks for this; it's very well written, and obviously timely: I think that the fight to ensure that the 'transition' in Iraq is in Iraqis' interests is the central one at present. On the advantages of presidental over assembly elections, I wonder if some of the conclusions might not actually be reversible. I outline some of my thinking below. Which requires a more mature party system? In a presidental election, most people will gain their knowledge of a candidate through second hand sources: the media, party press, etc. In assembly elections, if some system of local constituencies (like the UK system) is used, then there is a much greater chance that voters will actually know the candidates. Thus, the parties are required to play a lesser role. (I was speaking to a Baghdad councillor last week who seemed quite pleased that one member, who received a lot of votes in the first election, was discovered to be a fraud, and received very few in the next one. It was a pleasure to see the delight that he took in winning votes - and trust.) > elections for a president do not require as robust a voter > registration as elections to choose the many seats of the > assembly, as the former allows for a greater margin of error. The corollary of this, though, is that only one group of people get their president. This may be much more 'polarising' than an assembly election. If there's a single president - or even three - it's unlikely that that president will have truly national support. Thus, everyone else risks feeling more alienated: not only are they likely to regard 'their' president with suspicion, but they'll be 'represented' by people they've not elected. This seems to be the opposite to how democracy came to the UK, for what that's worth: elected MPs gradually holding the unelected sovereign to account. Quite apart for the desirability, what about the technical feasibility of a presidental election? For example, I find it easy to imagine that no candidate would win a majority of the votes. The options then seem to include: 1. declare someone with, for example, 20% of the national vote president. This would, I think, be a disaster. 2. have a second (third? fourth?) round of elections, sucessively knocking out candidates. All of this costs more time, and requires more security. 3. have voters submit single transferrable votes, indicating how they would vote as their preferred candidates lose. This, I think, would be far too complicated: because the mapping between individuals' votes and the final outcome is complicated, I think that a lot of people would be left with the sense that somehow something was slipped by them. On security, only one bomb can ruin a whole presidental election: a lot more than that are required to knock out the election of an assembly. I agree that there is more likelihood of extremists or Baathists slipping through in an assembly election: there are simply more seats to win, and candidates only need have local appeal. At the same time, I think it extremely unlikely that they would have much influence. Further, they'll be forced to argue their positions in public debate. > The complexity of the current plan, a fact that has > undoubtedly contributed to the current opposition, makes any > outcome impossible to predict. Predictability is a bit of a difficult criterion: clearly, it's not usually regarded as a primary requirement. Free and fair seem to share that first rank. At the same time, predictability is generally important in societies: it helps them to plan, and planning can help societies. With this as preamble, presidental elections may be more uncertain than are assembly elections. For example, to predict a presidental election, one needs to form predictions about how each of the major candidates would do with each of the constituencies: what is the relative popularity of Pachachi in Erbil to Barzani in Falluja? In an elected assembly, on the other hand, one only has to make 'local predictions' about outcomes. In Erbil, who is the most popular candidate? Admittedly, one has to make a lot of these. > For example, the current draft > of the transitional constitution envisages a tripartite > presidency council. Under presidential elections this can be > formed by the three winning candidates, who between them > would likely hold the support of the majority of Iraq. I do not know of any other country that uses such a system. (Military junta often seem to be triumvirates.) This both gives me no idea how it would work in practice, and a suspicion that it probably doesn't work very well. In Iraq, a system like this seems to ensure that no single individual has responsibility to Iraqis as a whole. If, for example, a Kurd, a Sunni Arab and a Shia Arab all happen to become the presidency council, then it seems likely to me that they'll understand that their primary constituents are those sharing their labels. This risks embedding 'identity politics' in Iraq, a very dangerous development, I think. > Separating the two processes for selecting the legislative > and an executive can break the current deadlock. A separation that I have been thinking about more recently is that between regional (municipal and governorate) elections, on the one hand, and national ones, on the other. Local elections have the advantages of the assembly elections mentioned above, but also reduce the risk that identity politics is introduced into the elections: as all candidates running in Kerbala will be Shia, the ability to play the 'religion card' seems reduced. The Washington Post has just run an article on local elections that I find very encouraging (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A44553-2004Feb15.html): "In the province of Dhi Qar, about 230 miles southeast of Baghdad and a backwater even by Iraq's standards, residents voting as families will have elected city councils in 16 of the 20 biggest cities by next month. Bradley will have organized 11, more than half of them this month. "At every turn, the elections have set precedents, some of them unanticipated. Voters have typically elected professionals rather than tribal or religious leaders, although the process has energized Islamic parties. Activists have gone door to door to organize women, who turned out in their largest numbers this past week in some of Iraq's most conservative towns. Most important is the way residents qualify to cast ballots -- cards issued by Hussein's government to distribute monthly rations. ... "Bradley, too, stopped short of endorsing the system for the rest of the country. But in Dhi Qar province, which is overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim, it has proved the surest way to ensure the councils that run the towns are viewed as legitimate -- unlike many U.S.-appointed councils elsewhere in Iraq. ... "With about a month of planning -- at a cost of about $600 each -- Bradley organized back-to-back elections this past week in Chebayish and Fuhud, ... "While some have contended the former government abused the system, Bradley said he believes 95 percent of families in the province have ration cards. ... "'If the Americans reject the elections, we'll reject them,' Faraj Alaywi, a 26-year-old nurse, said as a gusty wind blew through the town. 'The Iraqi people want elections, 200 percent. The world says elections aren't possible, but we want them.' Best, Colin Rowat work | Room 406, Department of Economics | The University of Birmingham | Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK | web.bham.ac.uk/c.rowat | ( 44/0) 121 414 3754 | (+44/0) 121 414 7377 (fax) | firstname.lastname@example.org personal | (+44/0) 7768 056 984 (mobile) | (+44/0) 7092 378 517 (fax) | (707) 221 3672 (US fax) | email@example.com _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk