Monday, May 26, 2008

Commission head warns provinial elections could be delayed (Also: Kurd-UIA split over Kirkuk)

Leaders of the parliamentary blocs failed to reach agreement yesterday on important points relating to the provincial-council elections expected for this coming fall. They will be meeting again in the coming week, but AlHayat (Monday May 26) says it is now generally expected that parliamentary passage of the necessary election-procedures law "will be delayed", considering that in the month that has passed since the date (Oct 1) was announced, the parties have failed to agree on important points.

Among the main points are the following: (1) The nature of the party-lists that will be presented to electors at the polling-stations, particularly whether they will be "closed lists" (voter only gets to vote for the party's list as it stands, winning candidates to be named according to the priorities in that list) or "open lists" (voter also gets a chance to indicate individual preferences within the list); and connected with that, if there are open lists, then what to do about quotas in provincial councils for women, and minority representation. (2) A question relating to "number of constituencies" (not explained here); and (3) Whether to hold the elections all on the same day, or on different days.

Head of the Iraqi High Commission on Elections, Farj Al-Haydari said in the event the legislators decide on either or both of open lists and/or elections on different days, his organization will need additional time to prepare, and the result will be a delay in the elections. (Haydari has called the idea of local elections on different days "unreasonable" and dangerous, because from a security point of view, the Iraqi security forces would have to be on call for emergencies on all of those days, neglecting other tasks; and from technical points of view because of the increased possibilities for manipulation). So there are two uncertainties: One is how long it will take the parties to agree on the electoral-procedure, and the other the length of any resulting delays in preparation required by the Commission.

The AlHayat journalist notes that delays in organizing this are nothing new, considering that the constitution calls for provincial elections to have been held immediately after the end-2005 national-parliament elections.

The journalist doesn't mention this specifically, but given the complexity of these issues, and particularly in switching to open lists, and/or to sequential elections, there is plenty of room for foot-dragging by those so inclined.


Azzaman on Tuesday May 27 highlights another unresolved problem in election-planning. The Kurdish parties (allies of Maliki and the UIA in the government) are asking that the elections in Kirkuk be postponed until after there is a clause 140 referendum on the status of Kirkuk (which there probably won't ever be: The constitutional deadline for holding it is past, and the UN commission and a lot of politicians recommend a political-compromise solution instead. For instance, the paper says, 110 parliamentary deputies (including the UIA) delegation presented to parliament a proposal to break Kirkuk into four electoral districts, with 32% representation for each of the Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen districts, with 4% for the other minorities. The journalist notes more and more politicians are warning the elections might not end up being held on time.


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