Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Election Law Update

Debate on the provincial election law was supposed to begin on Thursday July 17, but when the bill was introduced on Tuesday, the Kurds stormed out in protest. The main sticking point is how to deal with Kirkuk. Kurds claim the city, but there is a sizeable minority of Arabs, Turkoman, Christians, and others. Parliament will now deal with the bill next week. It seems most likely that voting will be postponed in Kirkuk until its future status is worked out, and the rest of the law will be voted on.

At the end of 2007 there was suppose to be a census and vote on Kirkuk, but that never happened. The United Nations is now trying to mediate, but none of its proposals have gained acceptance by the different sides. A State Department official from Kirkuk’s Provincial Reconstruction Team said that in the best case scenario, resolving the disputes over the area could take up to three years. That would leave the elections there in limbo, but would also be to the advantage of the Kurds who already control the provincial council, and are consolidating power. They are already moving in Kurds and trying to make Arabs leave by offering cash for example. They are also not above trying to fix any elections once they happen. During the last voting in 2005, monitors found 82,000 Kurds with no documents proving their residence in Kirkuk trying to vote. Kurdish officials threatened to boycott the entire election process unless they were counted.

Another dispute has also arisen over a provision to give a quota of seats on provincial councils to women. A member of former prime minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List told the Voices of Iraq, that his party walked out of parliament on Wednesday July 16 when they found the article not in the election bill.

Even without an election law, voting officials are trying to move ahead. They have set up 563 voting registration centers across the country. The voting commission is going to allow displaced Iraqis to register, and they have thirty days to do so. That’s an important step because Iraq has over two million internal refugees.

These arguments are just a harbinger of what is to come. Political parties are positioning themselves over all kinds of issues like the displaced, political symbols, control of provinces and regions, etc. It is hoped that the vote will usher in a new wave of political parties, and a new status quo, but it seems like the groups in power are doing their best to hold on and fix the system to benefit themselves.

SOURCES

Voices of Iraq, “95 lawmakers criticize the U.N. recommendations over disputed districts,” 6/7/08
- “IHEC opens 563 voter registration update centers,” 7/15/08
- “MP withdraws from parliament in protest of cancellation of article 50,” 7/15/08
- “Parliament postpones provincial elections law in Kirkuk – MP,” 7/15/08
- “Parliament postpones vote on provincial elections law until Mon.,” 7/16/08
- “Parliamentary session put off, UIC in closed session with KC,” 7/15/08
- “UIC proposes postponing Kirkuk elections for 6 months – MP,” 7/15/08

Warden, James, “Disagreements over Kirkuk’s status could sideline voters,” Stars and Stripes, 7/14/08

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