HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs


The Middle East is going through an unprecedented upheaval, one which many of its participants and keenest observers sincerely hope will end in the establishment of many more democratic regimes in the region. Now that the broad parameters of these transitions are established, people are turning to the hard and sometimes tedious work of building institutions. For those countries having meaningful elections for the first time, the question of what electoral system should be used is extremely important, yet likely under-appreciated. Modern history demonstrates that what electoral system is chosen can have a major impact on the results of the election. The trajectory of many of these new countries will therefore depend at least in part on making intelligent, well-informed decisions about what electoral mechanisms should be used. For this reason, the recent experience of Iraq’s three-post Saddam electoral systems provides useful fodder for those who will shape the contours of the democracies struggling to emerge in the Middle East today.


O'Sullivan, Meghan, and Razzaq al-Saiedi. "Choosing an Electoral System: Iraq's Three Electoral Experiments, their Results, and their Political Implications." Belfer Center Discussion Paper, Harvard Kennedy School, April 2014.