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Consociationalism in Iraq after 2003

Aziz, I. M. (2018) Consociationalism in Iraq after 2003. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00077158


This thesis explores whether Iraq was a consociational democracy both formally as well as in practice from 2003 to 2014. Consociational theories suggest that democracies that encompass the consociational principles of proportional representation, autonomy, power sharing government, and the protection of key community interests by mutual veto provisions are more stable. Consequently, consociational principles have frequently been promoted in conflict-affected environments, including in Iraq. The thesis examines how and to what extent each of these elements is reflected in the constitution, and in government practice in Iraq. The analysis is divided chronologically into three parts: the US-led occupation and drafting of the constitution (2003 – 2005), the first election and the continued US military presence (2005-2010), and the period after the second election and the withdrawal of coalition forces (2010-2014). The thesis examines the consociational character of Iraq’s institutions and the degree of its implementation in the period in question through the analysis of key legal texts, and process tracing informed by primary documentary and news sources, as well as extensive elite interviews. On the basis of this empirical investigation, it finds four things. First, consociationalism is only partially reflected in the formal, constitutional provisions for Iraq’s governing institutions. Important practices, such as power sharing, have no constitutional basis in Iraq, and are at best implicit. Despite this, they are at times a prominent aspect of governance practice in Iraq, but at other times (e.g. during the second Maliki government for 2010 and 2014) are undermined in practice. Second, there is strong path dependence in the interpretation and implementation of consociational provisions in Iraq. Thus, the way in which consociational provisions were formalised in the constitution and later implemented cannot be understood without reference to the consociational practices of the occupation regime, for example. Third, the degree to which consociationalism has been implemented depended on the political willingness of the political leadership of the country’s major communities, and the political leverage of the US. When US forces withdrew, and commitment in particular of the Shiite political leadership around Prime Minister Maliki to power sharing and other consociational elements declined, the consociational character of the institutions was increasingly compromised. Fourth, the partial application of, and weak commitment to, consociationalism in Iraq meant that the institutional provisions implemented could not effectively work as a conflict resolution tool. While partially reflected in the constitution and in some legislation, it could only ever be partially implemented. Thus, it did not lead to peace, stability, and sustainability. The gap between communities widened, resulting in the Sunnis’ emphasis on the creation of their own region, while the Kurds decided to hold an independence referendum in September 2017.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Zaum, D., Renwick, A. and von Billerbeck, S.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Politics, Economics & International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:77158
Date on Title Page:2017


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