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Iran-Guided Sadr & Maleki Against Electronic Voting.

MPs, watched carefully by their leaders, raise their hands in voting. This is what Iran-guided leaders like Sadr and Maleki want to see maintained, being strongly opposed to electronic voting. As a result, Iraq's democratisation process has been flawed as such leaders act as if they cannot stomach an atmosphere of freedom for which some of their MPs are yearning.

For some votes, officials count the raised hands. For others, the speaker simply eyes the floor and declares a majority in favour. A law is passed when the heads of blocs agree on it before-hand and vice-versa, regardless of the stand of other MPs. When the parliament made its long-awaited decision on Maleki's cabinet last December, voting for individual ministers passed so quickly that no one could possibly have counted the votes. Rebelling MPs want this practice ended as soon as possible.

With the computerised system, a button at each seat sends a signal to an electronic tally board and the vote is documented in a separate, secure centre. It would be more difficult for leaders to immediately know which MPs were voting.

Raising hands enables the heads of blocs to monitor their MPs and, if needed, compel them to vote according to the leader's will, not theirs. For the heads of blocs, voting against their will is completely unacceptable. Running the [electronic] system will make them lose their control over the bloc". Many leaders do not trust the loyalty of their MPs, particularly on key decisions. The decision on whether US forces remain beyond end-2011 is one, as no MP dares to be known in public as wanting an extension.

Rebelling MP Khadhem al-Shammari states: "I say most of the blocs and MPs support the extension [of the US presence] behind closed doors, but publicly they say something different. They are afraid of the leader and the [anti-American] voters".

Junior MPs say the show-of-hands vote undermines "real democracy". But some powerful MPs disagree. MP Baha' al-Araji, head of the Sadrist parliamentary group, says: "Blocs should control their MPs and should know how they vote. Their stand should comply with the stand of the bloc". An independent Shi'ite MP recalls how a bloc leader once stood during a vote to watch his MPs, adding: "Heordered his MPsto raise their hands saying; You, raise your hands'. Can you imagine that? What kind of democracy is this?"
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Date:Jul 25, 2011
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