Monday, November 9, 2009
Question Kirkuk resolved, Iraq has an election law at last
The Iraqi parliament has finally adopted an election law which takes away the last obstacles for elections that had been scheduled in januari 2010. The law is a victory for the Kurdish Alliance, because it stipulates that for the elections the 2009 census will be used. That means that a Kurdisch victory is as good as certain and Kirkuk could after the elections be claimed to be part of Kurdistan, since there has been a large influx of Kurds in recent years. Arabs and Tukmens who don't want te become part of Kurdistan, wanted to use the 2004 census in which Arabs constituted a clear majority in the area..
The law was adopted on Sunday evening, with 141 of the 275 members voting in favour. The vote ended weeks of impasse during which parliament was not able to come to an agreement.
Kirkuk, which is the centre of the oil industry in Kurdistan (which in turn is one of the main oil centres in Iraq) was long a disputed area. Under Saddam the city was heavily Arabized and the Kurds were driven out. The Kurds maintain that in recent years most of the Kurds that had been chased away, returned, but this is being disputed. Kirkuk had always been a mixed city with a strong Turkmen and Arab presence and much of the recent Kurdish immigration may have been politically motivated and engineered by the government of the three Kurdish provinces that together constitute Iraqi Kurdistan. For that reason the new law contains a clause that the census lists will be carefully srcutinized and if more than 5% irregularities will be found, any 55 members of parliament may ask for a recount of the vote.
Also the new law stipulated that the voting lists in the wholeof Iraq will be open, which means that the lists will contain the name of each candidate. But candidates will be tied to a party and will not appear as idividuals.
Iraqi president Al-Maliki praised the outcome of the votre. The American president Obama also hailed it and called it 'an ímportant milestone'. Washington's plans for a troop withdrawal are tied to the new elections and so the fact that no further delays have to be feared is welcome news in the White House. In Baghdad, however, there was some uncertainty as to whether 23 January is still feasable as date for the elections after all the delays. The date of 16 April was mentioned als an alternative.