Iraqi Parliament OKs Law On Provincial Election
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. Today in Iraq, the parliament approved a law governing provincial elections. That's after months of debate. Those elections were supposed to have been held about a week from now. And now it looks like they'll be delayed for at least a few more months. And as NPR's Peter Kenyon reports, voters in the city of Kirkuk will have to wait even longer than that.
PETER KENYON: Early this year, Iraqi and American officials predicted that improved security would allow Iraqi leaders to focus on laying the groundwork for a new, politically stable country. One of the early milestones would be a new elections law and provisional balloting by October 1 at the latest. That deadline fell by the wayside months ago as lawmakers deadlocked over how voting would be conducted in Kirkuk, which the Kurds want to incorporate into their semiautonomous region - something Arab and Turkmen politicians bitterly object to. Today, Parliament did approve an elections law, largely through the mediating efforts of U.N. envoy Stefan De Mistura, but the Kirkuk issue was fudged. Parliament Speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani called the compromise a great success.
Dr. MAHMOUD MASHHADANI (Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives): (Arabic spoken)
KENYON: We all know that Kirkuk used to be our main dilemma, he said, but now it has become the symbol of unity and the symbol for the perfect national law. In the face of paralyzing disputes over Kurdish claims to a numerical majority in Kirkuk, lawmakers voted to set up a committee to research property records and other data in hopes of clarifying the issue. This process will take several months. So if the government sticks to its new deadline of voting by the end of January, Kirkuk will be left out.
Contacted in Kirkuk by phone, Arab politicians were delighted, while Kurds were subdued. Mohammad Al-Juburi(ph), an Arab member of the provincial council, said today's vote would rescue the city, which he described as a mini Iraq because of its divided loyalties. Kirkuk's Kurdish governor, Abdul Rahman Mustafa, said he was disappointed that his city's residence wouldn't get to vote along with everyone else. But he added that at least it's a sign that problems can be solved through dialogue instead of violence.
The elections law now heads to the presidency council, which rejected an earlier version. Officials say this one stands a better chance of passing muster. That will be good news to many Iraqis who are waiting for the chance to vote yea or nay on their current local leaders, including voters in the western Anbar province where Sunni tribal sheiks are desperately trying to unseat the current council dominated by the Iraq Islamic Party. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Baghdad.
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