"The Iraqi people are being asked to vote for party lists or coalition lists...but they most often don't know which politicians are running. I think it's a little bit absurd to call that an election."I agree with Armed Liberal--Juan Cole is a professor of what? The otherwise urbane Cole needs to study up on his political science, and realize that this method (known as "closed lists") is prevalent in what is called List Proportional Representation systems. Closed lists mean that "the order of candidates elected by that list is fixed by the party itself, and voters are not able to express a preference for a particular candidate," according to the Administration and Cost of Elections Project (ACE). This system undoubtedly has its disadvantages, which is why most countries in continental Europe have open lists, but it should also be noted that the first democratic elections in 1994 in South Africa used closed lists. In addtion, list PR systems (the majority of which utilize closed lists) are used by a full 35% of the world's independent states and semi-autonomous territories.
There is much to criticize about this system (and I'm highly critical of a similar closed list system in place here in El Salvador), but I know of no political expert who would responsibly characterize such electoral systems as "absurd." Perhaps Professor Cole should request a briefing from his colleagues at the University of Michigan in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project before continuing to carry on like this.