Election turnout figures

Iraq's elections have produced an estimated turnout of 70%, which exceeds usual turnouts in mature democracies such as the US and UK. Turnout in some new democracies - Poland earlier this year is a notable example - can be much lower still.

Let us note, first off, that the Iraqi figures are estimates, and derived by different principles to the figures usually quoted for western countries. In Iraq we are taking the turnout and dividing by an estimate as to the voting age population to arrive at our percentage. In western countries the percentage is usually calculated by the REGISTERED voting population not the total voting age population. If calculated by the same principle as the Iraqi figures, western countries would have still lower figures.

For example, in the US Presidential election of 2000 more than 67% of registered voters turned out, however 49% of the voting age population turned out, and it is this figure that is most comparable to the Iraqi figure of an estimated 70%.

Let's note that turnout in 2004 was well up - though IDEA which produces international estimates of this sort of thing does not have up to date figures. My own estimate is that turnout in November 2004 calculated according to the same principles as the Iraqi figures would have been around 60%. On the other hand, let's also note that the Iraqi figure is for a parliamentary election, not a presidential, and countries that have both types of election nearly always have higher turnouts in presidential polls. American turnout in off-year Congressional elections is usually below 40% - only 34% of voting age population in 1998. So Iraqi turnout is twice the American figure.

In France, presidential elections see a turnout of more than 70%, but parliamentary elections are closer to 60%. In the UK, where there are only parliamentary elections, the last two have seen results below 60%.

So let us be clear, the new government of Iraq will have a legitimacy that is greater than those of its western allies and critics alike, let alone its middle eastern neighbours such as Syria, where there are no meaningful elections, or Iran, where clerics control who is allowed to stand.

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