Due to the current conflict in Iraq, the information on these pages may not reflect current conditions in the country.
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: President Jalal Talabani
Head of Government: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Iraq is a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of government. The 2005 Iraqi constitution guarantees basic rights. The executive branch consists of the Presidency Council (one president and up to three vice presidents) and a Council of Ministers (one prime minister, three deputy prime ministers, and 30 cabinet ministers). The president is the head of state, protecting the constitution and representing the sovereignty and unity of the state, while the prime minister is the direct executive authority and commander in chief. The president and vice presidents are elected by the Council of Representatives. The prime minister is nominated by the president and must be approved by a majority of members of the Council of Representatives. Upon nomination, the prime minister-designate names the members of his cabinet, the Council of Ministers, which is then approved by the Council of Representatives. Subsequently, the prime minister and the new ministers are sworn in. The executive branch serves a 4-year term concurrent with that of the Council of Representatives.
Iraq's legislative branch consists of an elected Council of Representatives (COR). After the 2005 elections, the Council of Representatives consisted of 275 members, each of whom was elected to a 4-year term of service. Pursuant to provisions for the March 7, 2010, elections, the COR expanded to 325 members to reflect an increase in the population of Iraq. At least one-quarter of the members of the Council of Representatives must be female. The responsibilities of the Council of Representatives include enacting federal laws, monitoring the executive branch, and electing the president of the republic.
Iraq's judicial branch is composed of the Higher Judicial Council, Federal Supreme Court, Court of Cassation, Public Prosecution Department, Judiciary Oversight Commission, and other federal courts. The Higher Judicial Council supervises the affairs of the federal judiciary. The Federal Supreme Court has limited jurisdiction related to intra-governmental disputes and constitutional issues. The appellate courts appeal up to the Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeal. The establishment of the federal courts, their types, and methods for judicial appointments are set forth by laws enacted by the Council of Representatives.
POLITICAL CONDITIONS Recent Elections
On January 31, 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all provinces except for the three provinces comprising the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and Kirkuk province.
On March 7, 2010, Iraq held national elections in which candidates competed for positions in the Council of Representatives and the executive branch. These elections were based on a new open list electoral system that provided for direct election of the members of the Council of Representatives, who in turn elect the president and approve the executive branch appointments. The Iraqi National Movement coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won the most seats (91), followed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition (89 seats), the Kurdish bloc (headed by Kurdistan Democratic Party President Masud Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan President Jalal Talabani, with a total of 57 seats), the Iraqi National Alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr (70 seats), and other smaller political and minority parties (18 seats). On November 11, 2010, the Council of Representatives convened to elect Jalal Talabani to a second term as President of Iraq. Osama al-Nujayfi of the Iraqi National Movement coalition was elected as Parliament Speaker. On December 21, 2010, the Council of Representatives approved President Talabani’s nomination of Nuri al-Maliki for a second term as Prime Minister after Maliki proved able to secure the minimum parliamentary majority of 163 seats. The Council of Representatives also approved a majority of Prime Minister Maliki’s Council of Ministers.
With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath regime, Iraq has taken steps toward re-engagement on the international stage. Iraq currently has diplomatic representation in 54 countries around the world, including three permanent missions to international organizations: the United Nations in New York, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, and the Arab League in Cairo. Forty-three nations have diplomatic representation in Iraq.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (February 2012)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( February 2012)