Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Kurdish MPs give conditional approval to new provincial polls law

Kurdish MPs give conditional approval
to new provincial polls law - speaker

Voices of Iraq
BAGHDAD, Sept. 17 (VOI) - Iraq's parliament speaker on Wednesday said Kurdish lawmakers gave a hard approval to a proposal resolving the controversial provincial elections law in Kirkuk.

Deputies passed the provincial election law on July 22, but Kurdish MPs boycotted the session partly because the bill delayed voting in Kirkuk.The disagreement centers on article 24 of original draft legislation that would have divided power amongst the province's Arab, Kurds, and Turkmen communities, but is opposed by the Kurds on the basis of their superior numbers and historical claims to the city.

"The July 22 Group of MPs presented a proposal emanating from UN envoy paper and law article 24, which deputies from Kurdistan Coalition(KC) and Kurdistan's Islamic Union approved, yet they held the UN proposal conditional to making no further amendements", a parliament statement received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI) cited speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani as saying.

Earlier on Tuesday, al-Mashhadani said blocs reached a compromise on passing the provincial elections law, expecting its parliament's endorsement on Wednesday."

The KC has reservations over coalescing the UN envoy paper and law article 24, but was approved to reach a compromise, however any further amendments would result in new ones by the KC," the announcement quoted Fuad Massoum, the chief of the Kurdish bloc, as saying.

The announcement added parliament panel set up to resolve the controversy of provincial polls law would keep on meetings until reaching a compromise.

Iraq's political blocs have met in recent days to try to reach a compromise on the law, but they failed to reach any breakthroughs. The parliament decided to establish a special panel to overcome the controversial issue.

The law had been held up by a dispute over what to do about voting in multi-ethnic Kirkuk, where a dispute is simmering between Kurds who say the city should belong to the largely autonomous Kurdistan region and Arabs who want it to stay under central government authority. Arabs and Turkmen believe Kurds have stacked the city with Kurds since the downfall of Saddam in 2003 to try to tip the demographic balance in their favor in any vote.

Arabs encouraged to move there under Saddam Hussein's rule fear the vote will consolidate Kurdish power and they sought to postpone it, a proposal Kurdish politicians have rejected.

Parliament decided to postpone the vote and add another article that the Kurds found unacceptable: that each ethnic or sectarian group gets a set allocation of seats and voting is between individual candidates from those groups. Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen get 10 seats each. Minority Christians get two.

Washington has been urging a speedy provincial election, which it sees as a pillar of national reconciliation, but the poll is also proving a potential flashpoint for tensions.

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