Tuesday, July 15 Iraq’s parliament was due to vote on the country’s election law so that provincial elections could go forward at the end of the year. Voices of Iraq reports that the vote will be delayed until Thursday July 17 because of long-standing disputes that have been holding up the bill.
The biggest issue is over voting in Kirkuk. The city is multi-ethnic with Kurds, Arabs, Turkoman, Christians, and others. In the election law there are two options. On the one hand, parliament could follow a United Nations proposal to allow Kurds, Arabs and Turkoman to each have 32% of the parliamentary seats, with the other minorities getting the rest. The Arab and Turkish parties in the city, along with over 100 parliamentarians support the U.N.’s plan. The other option is to delay voting in the city until its future is decided, which is the Kurdish position. Whichever plan is selected, the issue will continue to be contentious as the three main groups can’t agree on how to register voters, while the Kurds have the upper hand because they control the provincial council that will determine the election commission.
The other dispute is over using religious symbolism. In early July, parliament added a provision to the law banning the use of religious figures in campaigning. There are two alternatives. One is to allow any religious images, and the other is to only prohibit the use of Shiite clerics like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In the 2005 elections, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) used Sistani’s photo extensively to garner Shiite votes. This time, the Ayatollah has said that his image should be not be used by any party. On July 12, the New York Times reported that the SIIC had dropped their objections to the first plan, so it’s likely to be passed.
Three other issues apparently have been resolved. One is to have an open list of candidates on the ballot rather than the closed list used in 2005 where voters could only pick from political parties, not individual politicians. The election law also provides one third of the seats in parliament to women. Finally, in mid-June parliament agreed not to allow Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced to vote because it would be too difficult. Iraq has one of the largest refugee problems in the world right now with over 2 million having lost their homes.
Passage of the law is the main barrier to moving forward with the election. The vote is suppose to be held October 1, but the head of the Electoral Commission told National Public Radio that he didn’t expect then to happen until December. They could even be delayed until the next year unless things begin to move forward more rapidly. The elections could be a major turning point in post-invasion Iraq as there are over 500 parties and individuals that have asked to be put on the ballot, and many of the ruling parties feel threatened by new upstarts on the political scene.
Alsumaria, “New alliance ahead of Kirkuk elections,” 6/27/08
Garcia-Navarro, Lourdes, “Iraqis Fear Delays of Critical Provincial Elections,” Morning Edition, NPR, 6/27/08
Jam, Kawa, “Delay of provincial council elections sought,” Kurdish Globe, 5/23/08
Robertson, Campbell, “Iraqi Forces Raid Mosque With Links to Sadrists,” New York Times, 7/12/08
Steele, Jonathan, “Iraqi MPs stall deals on Bush benchmarks,” Guardian, 6/28/08
Voices of Iraq, “Agreement among blocs not to join displaced Iraqis in elections,” 6/19/08
- “Disputes hamper provincial council elections law passage – MPs,” 7/14/08
- “MP calls to adopt dividing Kirkuk into 4 constituences,” 6/5/08
Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraq bans pictures of non-candidates in vote,” Associated Press, 7/3/08
Zavis, Alexandra, “Iraqi election law still incomplete,” Los Angeles Times, 7/14/08
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