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Iraq's voting system designed to reward turnout

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(CNN) -- Iraq's permanent four-year parliament will be a 275-seat body called the Council of Representatives elected under a system that election officials said "rewards voter turnout."

Most of the lawmakers will be elected proportionally by province and others will be chosen by their party's national and overseas showing.

Under the new system, 230 seats in the government will be allocated to the country's 18 provinces -- also called governorates -- based on the number of people registered to vote in each province for the January 30 election.

Baghdad, with 59, will have the largest number of seats.

The rest are: Nineveh, 19; Basra, 16; Sulaimaniya, 15; Irbil, 13; Thiqar, 12; Babil, 11; Diyala, 10; Anbar, 9; Tameem, 9; Najaf, 8; Qadisiya, 8; Salaheddin, 8; Wasit, 8; Duhuk, 7; Maysan, 7; Karbala, 6; and Muthanna, 5.

The remaining 45 "compensatory" seats will be allocated in a formula that rewards a political entity's national performance. These seats will be given to entities that didn't gain enough votes in a province to win a seat but took a large number of votes across the country.

They will be allocated in two phases.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, spelled out the details in a statement on its Web site. First, it said, "political entities that did not win seats at governorate level but reach a certain threshold [probably small political entities with broad-based support] will be allocated 'compensatory' seats."

Next, "any remaining seats will then be allocated to those political entities which won governorate-level seats, based on the proportion that they receive of the total valid votes nationwide [using a quota]. Thus, these 'national' seats will be a reward for the political entities with larger support."

Votes from Iraqis abroad will be applied to the compensatory category.

The IECI said the entire voting structure is "proportional," saying that if a "political entity" gets "10 percent of the votes cast at the governorate level, it will likely get 10 percent of the seats at the governorate level."

Also, the IECI said, the system "rewards voter turnout."

"It encourages participation and moreover it should produce very few wasted votes. This system should allow minorities and small political entities to be represented while at the same time rewarding larger political entities with seats in proportion to the larger number of votes received."

The commission said the one drawback is that it was devised three months ago, not giving enough time for people to familiarize themselves with it.

Another feature of the election is that the new constitution requires at least 25 percent of parliament members to be women.

It said that "as a first measure, the electoral law requires that at least one woman should be among the first three nominees on the candidate list for a political entity, and at least two women should be among the first six nominees on the list and so on."

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