October 15, 2009 was the original deadline for Iraq’s parliament to pass a new 2010 election law. As reported before, lawmakers could not agree on how to handle balloting in Tamim province, the home to Kirkuk, or whether to have an open or closed list voting system. Several more deadlines have passed since then, with still no breakthrough threatening to delay the elections.
The Iraqi Election Commission set the last date for action by the parliament as November 5, 2009. They said that if no agreement was made by that time, the balloting could not happen on its set date of January 16, 2010. Not enough lawmakers even showed up on the 5th to hold a discussion. This, despite intense pressure from outside forces to hold a vote. The U.S. Ambassador and the U.N.’s envoy to Iraq have both been sitting in on meetings of the leadership conference in parliament, Vice President Joe Biden called the President of the Kurdish region Massoud Barzani and the speaker of parliament Ilyad al-Samarrai, the Turkish Ambassador to Iraq also talked with Samarrai, and the head of Iran’s parliament also paid a visit to Iraqi lawmakers. That hasn’t helped, as most sessions of the legislature have started with short meetings of the legal committee, who are in charge of putting together the election bill, and then brief sessions of the full parliament who discuss other matters.
Now there is talk of having a vote on the latest proposal put forth by the U.N. on Saturday November 7, 2009. There are conflicting reports about whether this will be a successful day or not. The head of the legal committee and a member of the Kurdish Alliance (KA) both said that the Kurds had agreed to the U.N.’s plan of using the 2009 voter roles for Tamim, but making the elections provisional until a committee could go through those lists for irregularities. A seat for Arabs and Turkmen would also be set-aside in parliament to make up for the predicted victory of the KA in the province. Another member of the KA however, denied any such deal, while the same Kurdish parliamentarian who said there was a breakthrough commented that it was going to be found illegal by the federal court.
The dispute over Kirkuk is not the only issue holding things up. The Supreme Council, the Kurds’ closest allies in the legislature, has also been calling for more dialogue and consensus over the election law. They could be dragging out the process because they favor a closed list voting system, which only allows the public to select from lists, not individual candidates. The Election Commission has said that if no new election bill were passed by the parliament, it would have to revert to the old 2005 law that includes a closed list.
This is all part and parcel of the Iraqi parliament today. Most of the country’s struggles are being fought over in the political arena now, which means the parties tend to see things in zero-sum terms. That makes compromise and coming to terms with others all the harder. Kirkuk is one long-term problem that has consistently stymied the legislative process. It was such an issue that it led to the provincial elections being delayed from October 2008 to January 2009, and caused a veto of the first draft of the law. The struggle for position before the 2010 vote is just as intense as the winners will be able to name the prime minister. Both of those are the reasons why the discussion over the new election bill is being dragged out, and the politicians are failing to meet deadlines. In turn, it’s likely to blowback on them as it increases the negative view the Iraqi public has of its leaders.
AK News, “KA denies reaching agreement on electoral law,” 11/5/09
- “Stalemate of Iraqi national elections,” 11/3/09
Alsumaria, “IHEC: Parliament should enact elections’ law by Thursday,” 11/4/09
- “Kurdish alliance accepts Kirkuk proposal,” 11/5/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “Lawmakers reach agreement on election law, vote on Saturday – MP,” 11/5/09
- “U.S. amb. does not pressure parliament to approve election law – MPs,” 11/3/09
Chon, Gina, “Iraqis Miss Target Date on Election,” Wall Street Journal, 10/16/09
DPA, “Iraqi election law again falters on Kirkuk dispute – Summary,” 11/4/09
Sullivan, Marisa Cochrane, “Iraq’s Parliamentary Election,” Institute for the Study of War, 10/21/09
Visser, Reidar, “A Closed Assembly Will Produce a Closed List,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 10/16/09
- “The Neutral, Piecemeal Approach to Kirkuk: How to Unlock the Current Stalemate,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/4/09
- “They Don’t Give a Damn about Kirkuk … But They Don’t Want to Vote Either?” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/1/09
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