Iraqi lawmakers are deadlocked over how to conduct the crucial Iraqi election, slated for January. A delay could postpone the US withdrawal.
By Jane Arraf | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the November 2, 2009 edition
Baghdad - Concern over crucial Iraqi elections grew on Monday as parliamentarians here considered a new United Nations proposal aimed at breaking a two-month deadlock over how to conduct the vote, slated for January. Negotiations over the election law have remained stalled over one of the most emotional issues in the country – the disputed city of Kirkuk.
The United States and the UN, concerned that a further delay would require postponing elections past January, have issued unusually pointed statements in the past week urging the Iraqi factions to try to settle their differences. US Vice President Joe Biden telephoned Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Regional government, on Sunday to urge him to agree to an election law, Kurdish officials say.
The US and UN "should be worried," says Hunain al-Qaddo, a member of parliament from Iraq's Shabak minority. "If we don't manage to make any progress on the electoral law, that will have a negative impact on the political process and it will send a very bad signal to Iraq's enemies that the political system isn't working."
Iraqi ministries have been hit by four major bombings since August in an apparent attempt by insurgents to destabilize the government ahead of the elections. US officials say that if the vote doesn't take place on time, it could set back the planned withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
"I still have hopes but I think if we don't manage to do something this week or next week, we really have to look at postponing the election," says Dr. Qaddo.
'Kirkuk is the dividing line'
Parliament must either pass new legislation or amend a 2005 law to allow elections seen as crucial to the country's stability to take place early next year as mandated by the Constitution.
After more than two months of negotiations, parliamentarians are still deadlocked over who should have the right to vote in Kirkuk – the oil-rich city with a large Arab and Turkmen population is seen by the Kurds as its rightful capital – and how many seats each faction should have there.
"Kirkuk is the dividing line between a united or divided Iraq," says Fawzi Akram, a Turkmen member of parliament with the Sadr bloc. "Anyone who thinks the Arabs and Turkmen will give up Kirkuk is deluded."
Mr. Akram says parliamentarians on Monday were considering a new UN proposal that would elect members of parliament for only one year rather than the usual four-year terms while the voter lists are clarified. Some groups dissatisfied with that idea have presented competing proposals.