Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian
Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
Total: 438,317 sq km
Country comparison to the world: 59
Land: 437,367 km
Water: 950 sq km
Area – comparative: Slightly more than twice
the size of Idaho
Total: 3,650 km
Border countries: Iran 1,458 km, Jordan 181
km, Kuwait 240 km, Saudi Arabia 814
km, Syria 605 km, Turkey 352 km
Coastline: 58 km
Politics of Iraq: Introduction
Iraqi politics operate in a structure of a federal parliamentary representative democratic
Iraq is a multi-party system in which executive power is held by the PM of the Council of
Ministers as the head of government, as well as by Iraq’s President; legislative power is
vested in the Council of Representatives and the Federation Council.
Nouri al-Maliki, who exercises most of the executive power and nominates the Council of
Ministers (which acts as a cabinet and/or government), is Iraq’s current PM.
Politics of Iraq: Government
Capital (and largest city): Baghdad
Official languages: Arabic, Kurdish*
Government: Federal parliamentary
President: Jalal Talabani
Prime Minister: Nouri al-Maliki
Speaker of the Council of
Representatives: Usama al-Nujayfi
Legislature: Council of Representatives
*Constitution of Iraq, Article 4 (1st)
Politics of Iraq: History
The Ba’ath Party governed Iraq prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003.
Starting with the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the country was under occupation by foreign
troops, with military forces mostly from the United States and the United Kingdom.
Most foreign military forces functioned under the umbrella of the Multinational force in Iraq (the
MNF-I), approved under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1546, 1637, 1723, and 1790
until December 31, 2008.
The U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement went into effect on January 1, 2009.
The occupation gave way to a transitional administrative law, which was replaced by the
Constitution of Iraq after approval in a referendum held on October 15, 2005.
In the December 2005 Iraqi legislative elections, a permanent 275-member Council of
Representatives was elected; this formed the Government of Iraq, 2006-2010.
The January 2010 Iraqi legislative elections were the most recent elections.
Politics of Iraq: Federal government
Under the current Iraqi constitution, Iraq’s federal government is
identified as an Islamic, democratic, federal parliamentary
republic; the federal government is made up of the
executive, legislative, and judicial branches, along with various
The Council of Representatives and a Federation Council make
up the legislative branch.
The President, the PM, and the Council of Ministers make up
the executive branch.
The Higher Judicial Council, the Supreme Court, the Court of
Cassation, the Public Prosecution Department, the Judiciary
Oversight Commission, and other federal courts (one of which
is the Central Criminal Court) that are controlled by law make
up the federal judiciary.
The Independent High Commission for Human Rights, the
Independent High Electoral Commission, and the Commission
on Integrity are independent committees subject to observing by
the Council of Representatives.
The Central Bank of Iraq, the Board of Supreme Audit, the
Communications and Media Commission, and the Endowment
Commission are economically and administratively independent
The Foundation of Martyrs is attached to the Council of
The Federal Public Service Council controls the matters of the
federal public service, like appointment and promotion.
Politics of Iraq: Local government
The basic subdivisions of Iraq are the provinces and the governorates.
Both provinces and governorates are granted a high degree of self-government; provinces are
allowed extra powers, including control of internal security forces for the province, like
police, security forces, and guards.
The most recent local elections for the governorates took place in the 2009 Iraqi governorate
elections on 31 January 2009.
Politics of Iraq: Regions
In accordance with the constitution, the Council of Representatives pass a law which gives the
methods for making a new province six months from the commencement of its first meeting.
On 11 October 2006, a law was passed by an unanimous vote with only 138 out of 275 delegates
present; the remaining delegates declined to vote; legislators from the Iraqi Accord Front, Sadrist
Movement, and Islamic Virtue Party were opposed to the bill.
Under the law, a province can be made out of one or more existing governorates (or two or more
existing provinces); a governorate may also join an existing province to make a new province.
A new province can be suggested by one-third or more of the council members in each affected
governorate, and additionally, 500 voters or by one-tenth or more voters in each affected
A referendum must take place within three months; it requires a simple majority in favour of
In the likelihood of contending offers, the multiple offers are added to a ballot; the offer with the
most supporters is added to the referendum.
In the likelihood of an affirmative referendum, a Transitional Legislative Assembly is elected for
one year; its responsibility is to draft a constitution for the province, which is subsequently added to
a referendum that requires a simple majority to pass.
Unlike the Iraqi Council of Representatives (which requires two-thirds support), the President, the
PM, and Ministers of the province are elected by a simple majority.
Politics of Iraq: Corruption
According to Transparency International, Iraq is the most corrupt government in the Middle East; as
such, it is categorized as a “hybrid régime”, i.e., a mixture of a “flawed democracy” and an
The 2011 report “Costs of War” from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies
found that United States military presence in Iraq failed to prevent such corruption; as early as
2006, it was noted that "there were clear signs that post-Saddam Iraq was not going to be the
linchpin for a new democratic Middle East."
Born 12 November 1933 in Kelkan.
Sixth and current President of Iraq, and a
leading Kurdish politican, making him the first
non-Arab president of Iraq, even though Abdul
Karim Qasim was partly of Kurdish descent.
Founder and secretary general of one of the
major Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Was a famous member of the Interim Iraq
Governing Council, which was set up after the
deposal of the Saddam Hussein régime by the
2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Has been a proponent for Kurdish rights and
democracy in Iraq for over 50 years.
His native Kurdish aside, he speaks
Arabic, Persian, and English.
Is a member of Socialist International.
Born 20 June 1950 in Hindiya; also known as Jawad al-
Maliki or Abu Esraa.
74th and current PM of Iraq, since 20 May 2006, and the
secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party.
Al-Maliki and his government replaced the Iraqi
Currently in his second term as PM.
His first Cabinet was approved by the National
Assembly, assuming office on 20 May 2006; his second
Cabinet, in which he occupies the post of acting Interior
Minister, acting Defense Minister, and acting National
Security Minister, was approved on 21 December 2010.
Started his political career as a Shia dissident under
Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in the late 1970s, rising to
importance after he evaded a death sentence into exile
for 24 years; during his time overseas, he became a
senior leader of Dawa, directed the activities of anti-
Saddam guerillas, establishing ties with Iranian and
Syrian officials who assistance he wished to arrange
Despite working closely with the United States and
coalition forces in Iraq since they withdrew in late
2011, allegations have surfaced that al-Maliki has
attempted to gain control over the armed groups in his
country as a way to strengthen the PM’s authority and
exclude Sunni opposition.
Born 1956 in Mosul.
Current Speaker of the Council of Representatives since 11 November
2010; was also Minister of Industry in the Iraqi Transitional
According to a political ballot in 2010, his name was listed as Usama
Abdulaziz Mohammad Abdulaziz.
Born to a rich family of landlords and politicians; has a degree in
electrical engineering, having earned it from the University of Mosul in
1978, later working in the Iraqi government’s electricity ministry for 12
years; was involved in building power plants in Iraq, and founded his
own company in 1992.
As Minister of Industry, he privatised most of the state-run corporations
which included firms working in sectors from petrochemical and
cement to sugar, silk, and heavy commerce.
Campaigned in opposition to the approval of the Constitution of Iraq.
Was appointed by the Iraqi National List to be a member of the Iraqi
Council of Representatives after the December 2005 Iraqi legislative
election; later led a parliamentary commission.
Caused a walkout by Kurdish MPs in September 2006 when he
claimed that the villages around Mosul were of Arab origin; his
bodyguard was killed that same month.
Alleged in October 2008 that Kurdish peshmerga and intelligence
operatives were responsible for the 2008 attacks on Christians in
Brother of the current governor of Ninawa Governorate, Atheel al-
Religion in Iraq
Islam, practiced by around 97% of Iraqis, is the largest religion
practiced in Iraq, despite contradiction of these numbers in
more recent poll results.
Christianity and other religions make up the remaining 3%.
A number of Iraqi cities, such as Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad, and
Samarra, have been areas of historical importance for both Shia
and Sunni Muslims.
Muslim (official): 97% (Shia 60-65%, Sunni 32%-37%)
Christian or other: 3% (note: whereas there has been intended relocation of many Christian
families to northern Iraq, recent reporting shows that the general Christian population may
have declined by as much as 50 percent since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s
government in the spring of 2003; many have escaped to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.