Think 2-party election is hard? Try 83
By Geoffrey Fattah
Deseret Morning News
If you think voting in a two-party system is
tough, try voting in an 83-party system. I'll never
complain about voting in a U.S. general election
Staring at a ballot written in Arabic with 111
entries, I realized that I have one shot at this. When
I step up to the poll this weekend to vote in the
Iraqi national election, I will be able to check only
one box � one box out of 111 choices.
In the past few days I have tried to tell the
difference between the United Iraqi Alliance and the
Alliance of Independent Democrats, the National
Democratic Party and the National Democratic Alliance,
and I've grasped the scope of what a historic event
next week's election will be.
This is history in the making: the first time in
a generation that Iraqis, from all over the world,
will gather to express their political will. From the
Kurds in the north, who endured massacre under Saddam
Hussein, to Iraqi Christians and other minorities who
have long lived without a voice, a new government will
There are parties and alliances on the ballot
that offer everything from democratic-but-Muslim to
secular-yet-conservative. Some parties want an
alliance with Turkey, others want to bring the old
Iraqi monarchy back, and yet others want a Shiite
state similar to Iran.
Armed with my voter registration card, after
showing proof of my father's birth, I will once again
travel to Irvine, Calif., to cast my own vote.
When an election official told me last weekend
that the ballot will only be in Arabic, my heart sank
into my stomach. Born in the United States, I can't
read Arabic. "You're just going to have to do your
homework," she told me.
That's what I've been doing, but as I stared at
a sample ballot I can't read, it's hard not to be a
bit intimidated. Lucky for me each party is associated
with a number. My job has been to find sources on the
Internet that can tell me which number goes with which
Here's how the election will work. Iraqis won't
be voting for candidates but rather political parties.
Each political party has submitted a list of
candidates. Representation from each party will be
proportionate to the percentage of the votes they
Here's an example: If one party receives 20
percent of the total election vote, it will get 55
assembly seats out of a total 275 seats. The
candidates will be selected from the top of the list
down. Those people chosen will then form the
Transitional National Assembly, which is charged with
three important tasks: drafting an Iraqi constitution,
electing a president and two deputy presidents, and
legislating/overseeing executive authority.
It's heartening to know that the Independent
Electoral Commission of Iraq, which is overseeing the
election, has mandated that one-third of all party
candidates must be women. However, I doubt many of the
more conservative parties will resist the urge to
shove most of their female candidates to the bottom of
I don't know yet where my check mark will land
on this ballot, but I do know that the influence of
growing up an American will come into play. I want my
vote to go to a party that is secular and democratic.
Iraq is a more diverse place than we assume, with many
minority groups who would not flourish under a single
Like many Iraqi nationals and Iraqi-Americans,
my effort to spend time and money to travel to cast my
vote adds weight to my decision. I've got one shot.
I've got to make it a good one.