Monday, October 26, 2009

Council Comes Up With Ideas On Iraq Election Law, But What’s Next?

Iraq’s parliament had until October 15, 2009 to pass a new election law for the 2010 parliamentary elections. As reported before, that date came and went with nothing happening. The legislature gave itself another deadline, and that too went nowhere. Eventually the Political Council on National Security was given the task of coming up with a new bill. The Council is made up of the Presidential Council, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his deputies, the speaker of parliament and his deputies, the chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and members of the major political blocs that have over 10 seats in parliament. They held their first session on October 24. Despite this drawn out process, the Council seems to have made a breakthrough.

The main issue holding up the election law now is how to conduct voting in Tamim province, the home to the disputed city of Kirkuk. The Kurdish leadership says that Tamim should vote as a regular province, since they are the largest group there. It would both increase their representation in parliament, and help with their claims to annex Kirkuk. The Arabs and Turkmen in the province call for quotas to equally divide power amongst themselves and the Kurds, to maintain their position.

The cause of the dispute is the demographic changes that have occurred in the province since 2003. Immediately after the invasion, the Kurds began moving their people into Kirkuk, claiming that they had been forced out under Saddam. That led to fighting between the major communities, and the growth of the insurgency in Tamim. The Arabs and Turkmen say that the number of Kurds that have migrated to the city now far outnumber those that might have been displaced by the former regime.

The Political Council has now come up with three plans for dealing with voting in the province. One plan is to use the old 2004 voter roles that were compiled for the January 2005 elections. A Turkmen politician from Tamim originally proposed this plan in early October 2009. The second idea is for the province to be divided into two districts, one for people that live in Tamim, and the other for those that have just registered. The second group would be used to determine national seats that are given out after the vote to parties that do well nationally, but not enough to gain seats in a specific province. 10-20% of the seats in parliament are given out in this manner. The final proposal is for voting in Tamim to be delayed until the voter roles have been reviewed. All 3 plans avoid treating Tamim as is, which would automatically benefit the Kurds, and increase tensions with the other groups. At the same time, they do not lead to the ethnic division of the province as called for by the Arabs and Turkmen.

The question now is what comes next? Reidar Visser reports that these packages are either to be put together by President Jalal Talabani for parliament to vote on them, or more committees are to be formed to go over each idea. The former would obviously be the quickest way towards ending the delay in a new election law, while the latter will simply drag out the process even more. The Iraqi Election Commission said that they need 90 days to prepare for any balloting, so the more arguments and debates, the less likely Iraq will have elections on schedule, which are set for January 16, 2010. Iraq’s politicians need to think about whether they want to maintain the status quo in Tamim, which might mean having no voting there at all as happened during the 2009 provincials, or whether they want to allow the province to elect representatives. Iraq’s leaders have not been able to separate the need to govern Tamim, with its ultimate fate, so there’s no telling whether these three proposals will solve the election law problem or not.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Iraq Council submits 3 proposals over Kirkuk,” 10/26/09
- “Kurdish parties call for elections in Kirkuk,” 10/23/09

AK News, “Arabs, Turkomans seek disfranchise Kurds,” 10/11/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Political Council for National Security’s meting on election law begins – source,” 10/25/09
- “Turkmen MP calls for using 2004 voters’ records in Kirkuk election,” 10/9/09
- “Urgent/Parliament agrees to send election law to national security council,” 10/21/09

Chon, Gina, “Iraqis Miss Target Date on Election,” Wall Street Journal, 10/16/09

Murphy, Brian, “Trouble for Iraqi elections brewing in oil hub,” Associated Press, 10/1/09

PBS Frontline, “Interview Col. William Mayville,” Beyond Baghdad, 2/12/04

Roads To Iraq, “More deadlocks to come,” 10/21/09

Visser, Reidar, “More Alternatives for Kirkuk Emerge,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 10/26/09

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