Today National Public Radio’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported that the head of Iraq’s Election Commission believes that provincial elections, which were scheduled for October 2008, might be delayed until December. The Executive Director said that Iraq has no electoral calendar to follow that would set deadlines for preparing the elections. Most importantly the parliament needs to pass a new election law to regulate the voting. So far the Electoral Commission has registered 500 parties and individuals for the election. Voting registration is supposed to begin in July. Some other outstanding issues are how to deal with voting in Kirkuk, which the Kurds wish to annex, how refugees and the displaced are to vote, how their votes are to be counted, and the role of women candidates.
If the elections are delayed it will not be the first time. Prime Minister Maliki has been talking about elections since 2006. When President Bush announced the surge in January 2007 he said that there would be provincial elections by the end of 2007. The main reason why the elections have been held up is because Maliki’s two main backers, the Kurds and Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) are opposed. The Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front is also against the idea. They all fear that they will lose power if new elections are held. In February 2008 when the provincial law was finally voted on in Iraq’s parliament it squeaked through 83-82. After the law was passed the United Nations announced that the voting would be held on October 1.
The upcoming elections are probably the most important event in Iraq’s immediate future. The elections could begin the political realignment of the country. Maliki’s Dawa Party, the SIIC, and the Iraqi Accordance Front are widely unpopular. The Kurds rule Ninewa, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces that have Arab majorities, because the Sunnis boycotted the first provincial elections in 2005. A member of the Accordance Front, the Iraqi Islamic Party runs Anbar province because it was the only Sunni party that decided to participate in the 2005 voting. When new elections take place it’s believed that the Kurds could lose control of those three provinces to the Sunnis, and the Islamic Party will lose Anbar to the tribal Awakening movement. The elections could also give power to the Sadrists, and new parties such as the Sunni Sons of Iraq, tribes, and independents. Delaying elections, will only increase Iraq’s political problems.
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