On the night of November 8, 2009, Iraq’s parliament finally passed the 2010 election law. 195 of the 175 members were present, with 141 voting for the bill. As mentioned before, the law was originally supposed to be passed on October 16, but disputes over how to conduct voting in Tamim, home to the disputed city of Kirkuk, and whether to use an open or closed list voting system, delayed the proceedings. From reports, it seems that the legislature was able to break the deadlock when the major parties, including Prime Minister Maliki’s Dawa, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Sadrists, decided to drop their arguments over Tamim, so that the bill could move forward. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill was also seen at the parliament on Sunday desperately trying to bring lawmakers together so that a vote could happen.
The 2010 Election Law is actually a revision of the 2005 legislation with three major changes. First, there will be open instead of closed list voting. This allows the public to choose from individuals, parties or lists, instead of just coalitions. Second, elections in Tamim will be provisional for one year as a committee goes through the voter roles looking for any irregularities. This arises from claims by Arabs and Turkmen in the province that say Kurds have moved in thousands of their people into Kirkuk to shift the demographics in their favor to assure their victory in any vote, and eventually annex it. If the committee finds a difference of 5% or more in the vote, than the election can be invalidated there. To assuage the Kurds, the law says that other provinces can also have their voter roles scrutinized at the request of more than 50 lawmakers. The Kurdish Alliance currently has 53 seats. It also dropped the proposal to give two compensatory seats each to Arabs and Turkmen in Tamim to make up for the expected Kurdish victory there. Third, the number of seats up for grabs will increase from the current 275 to 323. This is based upon statistics from the Ministry of Trade that administers the food ration system, and a requirement that there be one seat in parliament for every 100,000 people.
After that, the bill is pretty much like the 2005 one. Iraqis living overseas will be allowed to vote. There will also be quotas for women, and minorities. Christians will get one seat each in Tamim, Ninewa, Baghdad, Irbil, and Dohuk, Yazidis and Shabaks will get one seat each in Ninewa, and Mandean Christians will get one seat in Baghdad. Women are also supposed to be 25% of the politicians elected to office.
The bill now goes to the Presidential Council for final approval, which is expected shortly. The Election Commission, however, says that because of the delays, Iraq cannot hold balloting on the original date, which was January 16, 2010. Instead they have proposed January 21 as the new deadline.
It was important that the parliament put aside its differences over the future of Kirkuk to get the election bill passed. If they had not, the debate over it could’ve dragged on for months as happened with the provincial election law that was originally planned for October 2008, but got delayed until January 2009, and had the original version vetoed as a result. At the same time, the law is definitely a victory for the Kurds. They got all of their major demands met, and their expected victory in Tamim in 2010 will create more facts on the ground to support their argument that the Kurdistan Regional Government should annex Kirkuk. That will have to wait for another day however as the technical issue of holding elections is finally moving forward.
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