Turnout in Transitional Elections: Who Votes in Iraq?
The Journal of the Middle East and Africa
19 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019 Last revised: 16 Aug 2023
Date Written: March 4, 2018
Electoral turnout in Iraq is a puzzling phenomenon. Despite the country’s lack of a democratic past, undeveloped party system, volatile political alliances, inexperienced voters, ethnic politics, sectarian violence, and terrorism, Iraqis’ electoral engagement has reached impressive levels. Given the importance of political participation at the foundational stages of democracy, this article places the individual within a broad context to draw an image of the likely Iraqi voter using five nationally representative surveys covering the three Iraqi parliamentary elections of 2005, 2010, and 2014. The main findings indicate that the Iraqi voter is likely to be a middle-aged, educated male with interest in politics and trust in the political institutions. Surprisingly, the socioeconomic and ethnic identities of the voter are not related to that individual’s decision to participate. Provincial-level violence has a complex and unstable link to individual turnout, depending on its timing, scale, and frequency, but it does not hinder participation. These results challenge some of the common themes in the literature on Iraqi politics and democratization. With the alarming decline in the turnout rate of the 2018 elections, this study is a preliminary guide to understanding how to sustain citizens’ engagement in new democracies.
Keywords: democratic transition, iraq, violence, elections, middle east
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