Freedom in the World
Iraq held parliamentary elections in March 2010 that both international and domestic monitoring groups described as free and fair. However, rival political groupings were unable to form a governing coalition until December. Insurgents took advantage of the prolonged political limbo to pursue a campaign of violence against national institutions and sectarian targets. Government statistics suggested that violence during the summer reached levels not seen in two years. Meanwhile, the U.S. military formally declared an end to combat operations in Iraq, but some 50,000 U.S. troops remained in the country under a mandate to “advise and assist” their Iraqi counterparts. In the Kurdish region, political elites launched a series of attacks on opposition journalists during the year.
Iraq is not an electoral d emocracy. Although it has conducted meaningful elections, political participation and decision-making in the country remain seriously impaired by sectarian and insurgent violence, widespread corruption, and the influence of foreign powers. Under the constitution, the president and two vice presidents are elected by the parliament and appoint the prime minister, who is nominated by the largest parliamentary bloc. Elections are held every four years. The prime minister forms a cabinet and runs the executive functions of the state. The parliament consists of a 325-seat lower house, the Council of Representatives, and a still-unformed upper house, the Federal Council, which would represent provincial interests. Political parties representing a wide range of viewpoints operate without legal restrictions, but the Baath party is officially banned. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), whose nine-member board was selected by a UN advisory committee, has sole responsibility for administering elections.