Iraq passes poll law, vote seen before Jan 31
Bahgdad, September 24, 2008
Iraq's parliament passed a provincial elections law on Wednesday after months of arguing between Arabs and Kurds, and called for the vote to be held before January 31 next year, legislators said.
The polls had been scheduled for October 1 but the law governing how the vote should be conducted stalled in parliament over how to treat the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, where control is disputed by Kurds, Arabs and ethnic Turkmen.
Members of parliament said elections in Kirkuk would be delayed until a formula satisfactory to all sides was worked out.
The elections, which will select provincial councils across Iraq, will provide early clues on how Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish factions and other minority groups will fare in national polls scheduled for late 2009.
Parliament now submits the law to Iraq's three-member presidency council, headed by President Jalal Talabani, for approval. Talabani rejected an earlier version that was approved by legislators in July and sent it back to parliament.
Faraj Al-Haidari, head of Iraq's Electoral Commission, told Reuters that while much of the organising work had been finished it might be 4-5 months before the vote could go ahead.
'If the presidency (council) approves the law, we need 140 to 150 days to complete all the preparations to hold the elections,' he said.
Salim Al-Jubouri, a senior parliamentarian from the Sunni Arab Accordance Front, said the law had been passed unanimously with Kurds and Arabs in attendance.
All sides had made concessions on Kirkuk, he said, adding there would be a separate law for dealing with elections in Kirkuk as well as a power-sharing formula for the city's administration. - Reuters