BAGHDAD - While the deal Iraqi leaders reached over the weekend on a new election law may not be perfect, all major political groupings have said they will take part in the elections.
That stands in stark contrast to Iraq’s first post-invasion parliamentary vote in January 2005, which Sunnis boycotted, helping to fuel anger and a spiraling insurgency that engulfed the country for two years.
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission sent a proposal to Iraq’s presidency council to hold national elections Jan. 21, five days after the previously scheduled date. The date must be approved by the presidential council. The commission also determined there should be 323 seats in the next Parliament, up from 275, commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said.
US officials had followed the election debate closely for any sign that it might affect withdrawal of American combat troops, which Washington has tied to the vote. With violence down sharply nationwide, US officials hope that the January vote will bolster Iraq’s fragile democracy.
The law’s passage required compromises by all sides, and the Kurds received key concessions. Still, analysts warned that the law sidesteps a decision on the ultimate fate of Kirkuk - a city claimed by both Kurds and Arabs that had been a major stumbling block to the law’s passage - and ensures more battles over the city in the future.
The legislation passed Sunday allows the vote in Kirkuk to be held just as in other regions of the country. However, if lawmakers suspect there is a more than 5 percent annual increase in population in a disputed area, including Kirkuk, they can vote to create a committee to investigate and eventually contest the election results in a district.
This solution addresses Arab and Turkomen assertions that Kurds have packed the city.
But analysts say the Kurds also notched a victory by having the elections carried out on the basis of 2009 voter lists, which probably reflect Kurdish increases in the city, instead of 2004 records Arabs have favored.