Iraq is a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic. It is a multi-party system whereby the executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister of the Council of Ministers as the head of government, the President of Iraq as the head of state, and legislative power is vested in the Council of Representatives.

The current President of Iraq is Abdul Latif Rashid, who holds most of the executive authority and appointed the Council of Ministers, which acts as a cabinet and/or government.

The northern autonomous provinces, Kurdistan Region emerged in 1992 as an autonomous entity inside Iraq with its own local government and parliament.[1]

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Iraq an "authoritarian regime" in 2022.[2]


Federal government

Main article: Federal government of Iraq

Council of Representatives of Iraq

The federal government of Iraq is defined under the current constitution as an Islamic,[3] democratic, federal parliamentary republic.[4] The federal government is composed of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as numerous independent commissions.

The legislative branch is composed of the Council of Representatives and a Federation Council.[5] The executive branch is composed of the president, the prime minister, and the Council of Ministers.[6] The federal judiciary is composed of the Higher Judicial Council, the Supreme Court, the Court of Cassation, the Public Prosecution Department, the Judiciary Oversight Commission, and other federal courts that are regulated by law.[7] One such court is the Central Criminal Court.

The Independent High Commission for Human Rights, the Independent High Electoral Commission, and the Commission on Integrity are independent commissions subject to monitoring by the Council of Representatives.[8] The Central Bank of Iraq, the Board of Supreme Audit, the Communications and Media Commission, and the Endowment Commission are financially and administratively independent institutions.[9] The Foundation of Martyrs is attached to the Council of Ministers.[10] The Federal Public Service Council regulates the affairs of the federal public service, including appointment and promotion.[11]

Local government

The basic subdivisions of the country are the regions and the governorates. Both regions and governorates are given broad autonomy with regions given additional powers such as control of internal security forces for the region such as police, security forces, and guards.[12] The last local elections for the governorates were held in the 2009 Iraqi governorate elections on 31 January 2009.


Main article: regions of Iraq

The constitution requires that the Council of Representatives enact a law which provides the procedures for forming a new region 6 months from the start of its first session.[13] A law was passed 11 October 2006 by a unanimous vote with only 138 of 275 representatives present, with the remaining representatives boycotting the vote.[14][15] Legislators from the Iraqi Accord Front, Sadrist Movement and Islamic Virtue Party all opposed the bill.[16]

Under the law, a region can be created out of one or more existing governorates or two or more existing regions, and a governorate can also join an existing region to create a new region. A new region can be proposed by one third or more of the council members in each affected governorate plus 500 voters or by one tenth or more voters in each affected governorate. A referendum must then be held within three months, which requires a simple majority in favour to pass. In the event of competing proposals, the multiple proposals are put to a ballot and the proposal with the most supporters is put to the referendum. In the event of an affirmative referendum a Transitional Legislative Assembly is elected for one year, which has the task of writing a constitution for the Region, which is then put to a referendum requiring a simple majority to pass. The President, Prime Minister and Ministers of the region are elected by simple majority, in contrast to the Iraqi Council of Representatives which requires two thirds support.[15]


Main articles: governorates of Iraq and districts of Iraq

See also: Government of Baghdad

Iraqi Governorates

Iraq is divided into 18 governorates, which are further divided into districts:

  1. Baghdād (بغداد)
  2. Salāh ad-Dīn (صلاح الدين)
  3. Diyālā (ديالى)
  4. Wāsit (واسط)
  5. Maysān (ميسان)
  6. Basra (البصرة)
  7. Dhī Qār (ذي قار)
  8. Al-Muthannā (المثنى)
  9. Al-Qādisiyyah (القادسية)
  10. Bābylon (بابل)
  11. Karbalā' (كربلاء)
  12. Najaf (النجف)
  13. Al-Anbar (الأنبار)
  14. Nineveh (نينوى)
  15. Dohūk (دهوك)
  16. Arbīl (أربيل)
  17. Kirkuk (كركوك)
  18. Sulaymāniyah (السليمانية)

Political parties

Main article: List of political parties in Iraq

Parliamentary alliances and parties

Other parties

Illegal parties


Main article: Elections in Iraq

Iraqi parliamentary election, January 2005

Main article: January 2005 Iraqi parliamentary election

Iraqi police officers hold up their index fingers marked with purple indelible ink, a security measure to prevent double voting.

Elections for the National Assembly of Iraq were held on January 30, 2005, in Iraq. The 275-member National Assembly was a parliament created under the Transitional Law during the Occupation of Iraq. The newly elected transitional Assembly was given a mandate to write the new and permanent Constitution of Iraq and exercised legislative functions until the new Constitution came into effect, and resulted in the formation of the Iraqi Transitional Government.

The United Iraqi Alliance, tacitly backed by Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, led with some 48% of the vote. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan was in second place with some 26% of the vote. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party, the Iraqi List, came third with some 14%. In total, twelve parties received enough votes to win a seat in the assembly.

Low Arab Sunni turnout threatened the legitimacy of the election, which was as low as 2% in Anbar province. More than 100 armed attacks on polling places took place, killing at least 44 people (including nine suicide bombers) across Iraq, including at least 20 in Baghdad.

Iraqi parliamentary election, December 2005

Main article: December 2005 Iraqi parliamentary election

Iraqis in the predominantly Sunni city of Husaybah, wait in lines to vote during the national election.

Following the ratification of the Constitution of Iraq on 15 October 2005, a general election was held on 15 December to elect the permanent 275-member Iraqi Council of Representatives.

The elections took place under a list system, whereby voters chose from a list of parties and coalitions. 230 seats were apportioned among Iraq's 18 governorates based on the number of registered voters in each as of the January 2005 elections, including 59 seats for Baghdad Governorate.[17] The seats within each governorate were allocated to lists through a system of Proportional Representation. An additional 45 "compensatory" seats were allocated to those parties whose percentage of the national vote total (including out of country votes) exceeds the percentage of the 275 total seats that they have been allocated. Women were required to occupy 25% of the 275 seats.[18] The change in the voting system gave more weight to Arab Sunni voters, who make up most of the voters in several provinces. It was expected that these provinces would thus return mostly Sunni Arab representatives, after most Sunnis boycotted the last election.

Turnout was high (79.6%). The White House was encouraged by the relatively low levels of violence during polling,[19] with one insurgent group making good on a promised election day moratorium on attacks, even going so far as to guard the voters from attack.[20] President Bush frequently pointed to the election as a sign of progress in rebuilding Iraq. However, post-election violence threatened to plunge the nation into civil war, before the situation began to calm in 2007. The election results themselves produced a shaky coalition government headed by Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraqi parliamentary election, 2010

Main article: 2010 Iraqi parliamentary election

A parliamentary election was held in Iraq on 7 March 2010. The election decided the 325 members of the Council of Representatives of Iraq who will elect the Iraqi Prime Minister and President. The election resulted in a partial victory for the Iraqi National Movement, led by former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, which won a total of 91 seats, making it the largest alliance in the council. The State of Law Coalition, led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, was the second largest grouping with 89 seats.

The election was rife with controversy.[21] Prior to the election, the Supreme Court in Iraq ruled that the existing electoral law/rule was unconstitutional,[22] and a new elections law made changes in the electoral system.[23] On 15 January 2010, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) banned 499 candidates from the election due to alleged links with the Ba'ath Party.[24] Before the start of the campaign on 12 February 2010, IHEC confirmed that most of the appeals by banned candidates had been rejected and 456 of the initially banned candidates would not be allowed to run for the election.[25] There were numerous allegations of fraud,[26][27] and a recount of the votes in Baghdad was ordered on 19 April 2010.[28] On May 14, IHEC announced that after 11,298 ballot boxes had been recounted, there was no sign of fraud or violations.[citation needed]

The new parliament opened on 14 June 2010.[29] After months of fraught negotiations, an agreement was reached on the formation of a new government on November 11.[30] Talabani would continue as president, Al-Maliki would stay on as prime minister and Allawi would head a new security council.

Iraqi parliamentary election, 2014

Main article: 2014 Iraqi parliamentary election

Parliamentary elections were held in Iraq on 30 April 2014. The elections decided the 328 members of the Council of Representatives who will in turn elect the Iraqi President and Prime Minister.

Iraqi parliamentary election, 2018

Main article: 2018 Iraqi parliamentary election

Iraqi parliamentary election, 2021

Main article: 2021 Iraqi parliamentary election

On 30 November 2021, the political bloc led by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr was confirmed the winner of the October parliamentary election. His Sadrist Movement, won a total of 73 out of the 329 seats in the parliament. The Taqadum, or Progress Party-led by Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, a Sunni – secured 37 seats. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law party got 33 seats in parliament. Al-Fatah alliance, whose main components are militia groups affiliated with the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces, sustained its crushing loss and snatched 17 seats. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) received 31 seats, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) gained 18.[31]

After the election 2022-

In June 2022, 73 members of parliament from the Sadrist movement, resigned.[32] On 27 October 2022, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, close ally of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, took the office to succeed Mustafa al-Kadhimi as new Prime Minister of Iraq.[33]



Main article: Corruption in Iraq

According to Transparency International, Iraq's is the most corrupt government in the Middle East, and is described as a "hybrid regime" (between a "flawed democracy" and an "authoritarian regime").[34] The 2011 report "Costs of War" from Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies concluded that U.S. military presence in Iraq has not been able to prevent this corruption, noting that as early as 2006, "there were clear signs that post-Saddam Iraq was not going to be the linchpin for a new democratic Middle East."[35]

Elite cartel ruling Iraq by muhasasa

Further information: Iraq § Post-Saddam (2003 – present)

During the regime of Saddam Hussein (1979–2003), several Iraqi opposition groups created a quota system by which Sunni Islamic, Shia Islamic, Kurdish and other religious or ethnic groups would be proportionally represented in a future new government. The U.S. in July 2003 selected the members of the Iraqi Governing Council, the forerunner of the first post–Hussein sovereign Iraqi (interim) government, according to that ethno-sectarian quota system.[36]

Also in 2003, a "pact" (muhasasa ta’ifa) was struck by "the elite", holding that after a national election, the winning parties divide the ministerial positions in direct relationship to their success at the ballot box.[37] After 2003, a second agreement (muhasasa) was made, holding that ministries and their budgets and other political positions must be proportionally placed under the "control" of "religious [or sectarian or ethnic] groups", "depending mostly on a group’s size", presuming such "groups" to be fully represented by one or several parties or lists taking part in the elections,[38] or that national governments should "represent the different ethnic, religious and sectarian identities that make up the Iraqi society", presuming that such "identities" are expressed or represented by existing political parties.[39] Such agreements between members of the elite to collude in order to avoid competition, improve their own profits, and dominate the market (of voters in a democracy), have been labeled "elite cartel".[39] The political parties themselves, once they won any ministry through the muhasasa system, benefit financially from state contracts awarded by them to companies run by their party members (see below, section Clientelism, patronage) what makes it even harder for them to step out of the muhasasa arrangements.[37] Or, as a researcher phrased it in 2020: "Such elite pacts are notoriously resistant to reform, particularly if any proposed change is perceived to undermine elite interests (…)".[40]

Although the system functions informally, a group of Norwegian researchers in late 2020 asserted—while citing other researchers but not a basic source—that 54% of the ministry posts would 'normally' go to the Shia, 24% to the Sunni, 18% to the Kurds, and 4% to minorities including the Christians.[41] They suggested that the muhasasa system leads to "a closed system of elite rule… recycling the political elites irrespective of their performance", not urging or inciting the Iraqi politicians to act transparently or accountably or to respond to citizen demands and deliver benefits to the Iraqi population as a whole, but instead making them easily susceptible to corruption, nepotism, clientelism and patronage while focusing on their own (group's) interests and (elite's) survival and consolidation.[41]

This muhasasa elite cartel (and connected problems) led to massive protests in Iraq in 2011, 2012–2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019–2021. Analysts have seen this muhasasa system to exist until at least late 2020.[42] The Abdul Mahdi Government of 2018 broke with elements of muhasasa. Although his anti-muhasasa Sadrist Movement retained plurality in the 2021 election, inability to form a government eventually led to the party's withdrawal from Parliament, allowing the rival parties to form another muhasasa-based government.[43]

Incompetent government

Those two muhasasa agreements in and after 2003 (see above) had the effect that, starting with the first post–2003 Iraqi government after elections in 2006, if a party "controlled" a ministry, it appointed also the top positions in their civil services to their party followers and faction members;[37] also the positions for senior public service were distributed on the basis of "ethnic, religious and/or party affiliation" rather than merit,[44] professional competence or experience.[39] This incompetence caused mismanagement in the successive Iraqi governments of Al-Maliki (2006–2014), Al-Abadi (2014–2018),[45][40] and also Abdul-Mahdi (2018–2020),[42][37] leading to hundreds of billions of dollars being wasted on failed projects and the neglect of electricity networks, the transportation sector, economic legislation, and other infrastructure,[45] as well as citizen demands not being responded to.[40] Such incompetence – next to other forms of political turmoil like corruption (see next subsection) and instability – is considered by many analysts to have also fostered the rise of ISIL, in 2014.[46] (During the formation of the Abdul Mahdi Government in 2018, this new prime minister attempted to break through the traditional muhasasa procedures, but there's no clear information as to how far he succeeded in that, or whether the Iraqi governments since 2018 worked more competently or less corruptly.)

Clientelism, patronage

Civil services being staffed – under these muhasasa agreements (see above) – according to party loyalty had the effect that state contracts would only be awarded by them to "party-affiliated companies and businesspeople",[39] who would be paid handsomely for their contracted services; even if they hardly, or not at all, actually delivered those services. Such manner of spending state finances has been labeled governmental contracting fraud and structural political corruption: not the general public but privileged companies were being served by the government.[37] This culture of clientelism[45] and "systemic political patronage"[47][36] produced a new class of entrepreneurs, getting rich through close relations with government officials and their lush government contracts.[45] Meanwhile, politicians themselves lived in wealth, self-enrichment and massive personal protection.[48][36]

Stagnant economy

The infrastructure not being maintained or modernized due to governmental incompetence and mismanagement (see above) severely hampered the development of private economic activity, therefore meaning the private sector could not absorb the half million of young people entering the job market every year.[49] This muhasasa-style 'cartel' government, due to its lack of accountability – politicians being "recycled … irrespective of their performance" – provided too little incentives for those politicians to build a diversified and competitive economy or "deliver benefits to the population".[40]

See also


  1. ^ "The Political History of the Kurds". VOA. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  2. ^ "Democracy Index 2022: Frontline democracy and the battle for Ukraine" (PDF). Economist Intelligence Unit. 2023. Retrieved 2023-02-09.
  3. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 1, Article 2
  4. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 1, Article 1
  5. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 3, Chapter 1, Article 48.
  6. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 3, Chapter 2, Article 63
  7. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 3, Chapter 3, Article 89
  8. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 3, Chapter 4, Article 102
  9. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 3, Chapter 4, Article 103
  10. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 3, Chapter 4, Article 104
  11. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Section 3, Chapter 4, Article 107
  12. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Article 121
  13. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Article 114
  14. ^ Muir, Jim (2006-10-11), Iraq passes regional autonomy law, Baghdad: BBC News, retrieved 2008-11-09
  15. ^ a b Draft of the Law on the Operational Procedures for the Creation of Regions, archived from the original on 2009-03-01, retrieved 2008-11-09
  16. ^ Iraqi parliament approves federal law, 2006-10-11, retrieved 2008-04-18 ((citation)): Unknown parameter |agency= ignored (help)[dead link]
  17. ^ local election results Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Guide to Iraq's election". BBC News. 2005-12-13. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  19. ^ Steele, Jonathan (2005-12-16). "Iraqis flock to polls as insurgents urge Sunnis to vote". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  20. ^ Knickmeyer, Ellen; Finer, Jonathan (2005-12-16). "Iraqi Vote Draws Big Turnout Of Sunnis". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  21. ^ "Iraq Recount Mired in a New Dispute", The New York Times, 3 May 2010, archived from the original on 2022-01-03
  22. ^ Visser, Reidar (24 November 2009). "The 2005 Election Law Seen as Unconstitutional; Seat Distribution Key in Doubt". Iraq and Gulf Analysis.
  23. ^ Chon, Gina. "Iraq Passes Key Election Law and Prepares for January Vote". The Wall Street Journal.
  24. ^ Iraqi election commission bans 500 candidates, BBC News, 15 January 2010
  25. ^ Iraq election officials confirm Sunni candidate ban, Reuters, 13 February 2010, archived from the original on 15 February 2010, retrieved 26 May 2010
  26. ^ Chulov, Martin (16 March 2010), "Iraqi elections hit with claims of fraud by opposing parties", The Guardian
  27. ^ Iraq poll results delayed again, amid mounting fraud claims, Earth Times, 15 March 2010, archived from the original on 30 September 2018, retrieved 15 November 2010
  28. ^ Baghdad recount throws Iraq election wide open, Agence France Presse, 19 April 2010
  29. ^ "Iraq merger forms big Shia bloc". BBC News. 11 June 2010.
  30. ^[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Yuan, Shawn (30 November 2021). "Muqtada al-Sadr bloc confirmed big winner of Iraq's election".
  32. ^ Yuan, Shawn. "Sadrists quit Iraq's parliament, but al-Sadr isn't going away".
  33. ^ "Iraq gets a new government after a year of deadlock – DW – 10/28/2022".
  34. ^ "Did the wars bring democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq?". Costs of War. Brown University. Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  35. ^ Balaghi, Shiva. "The War on Terror and Middle East Policy Analysis" (PDF). Costs of War. Brown University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  36. ^ a b c Ibrahim, Arwa (4 Dec 2019). "Muhasasa, the political system reviled by Iraqi protesters". Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  37. ^ a b c d e "Corruption Continues to Destabilize Iraq". Chatham House. 1 October 2019. Archived from the original on 2020-03-28. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  38. ^ Schöberlein, Jennifer (2020-12-10). "Iraq: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption (sections 'Drivers of corruption', 'The Muhasasa power-sharing agreement' and 'Entrenched but diminishing sectarianism')". U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre. Transparency International. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  39. ^ a b c d Harith al-Hasan (30 August 2015). "Social Protest in Iraq and Reality of the Internal Shia Dispute (section: 'Roots of the quota system')". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 2020-07-26. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  40. ^ a b c d Schöberlein, Jennifer (2020-12-10). "Iraq: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption (section 'The Muhasasa power-sharing agreement')". U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre. Transparency International. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  41. ^ a b Schöberlein, Jennifer (2020-12-10). "Iraq: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption". U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre. Transparency International. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  42. ^ a b Schöberlein, Jennifer (2020-12-10). "Iraq: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption". U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre. Transparency International. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  43. ^ Ottaway, Marina (January 13, 2023). "Iraq and the Problem of Democracy". Wilson Center.
  44. ^ Schöberlein, Jennifer (2020-12-10). "Iraq: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption (section 'Clientelism and patronage')". U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre. Transparency International. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  45. ^ a b c d Harith al-Hasan (30 August 2015). "Social Protest in Iraq and Reality of the Internal Shia Dispute (section: 'Economic crisis')". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 2020-07-26. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  46. ^ "The political crisis rocking Baghdad and why it matters for the war on ISIS". 19 April 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-04-22. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  47. ^ 'Iraq: Sadr supporters in mass protest for political reform'. BBC, 26 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  48. ^ Harith al-Hasan (30 August 2015). "Social Protest in Iraq and Reality of the Internal Shia Dispute (sections: 'Roots of the quota system' and 'Economic crisis')". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 2020-07-26. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  49. ^ Cite error: The named reference Jazeera,2015, Economy was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

Further reading