09/25/2008, 00.00
IRAQ
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Baghdad approves electoral law, sidestepping question of Kirkuk

If the president of the republic approves the new norm, the country should go to vote by January 31. But not Kurdistan, and not the contested oil-producing region.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Approval has finally been obtained for the law on provincial elections in Iraq, which should take place by January 31. The law is the result of a difficult compromise among Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites, and complies with the Kurdish request to exclude Kirkuk and the northern provinces of Dohuk, Arbil, and Sulaimaniyah from the voting. Kurdistan and the disputed city will have their own separate law. "Only the Kurdistan parliament has the right to pass the law, so there is no date yet fixed for elections in Kurdistan", says Ali Qader, chairman of the electoral commission for the northern region.

The question of Kirkuk was the main reason for the decision made in July by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to reject a previous version of the law. Kirkuk - at the center of an area with extensive oil reserves - was the object of an attempt by Saddam Hussein to modify its ethnic makeup, by sending Arabs to tip the balance against the Kurds. On this basis, Kurdish members of parliament are now demanding that only those who can demonstrate that they have historical roots there be allowed to participate in the elections.

The city is currently administered by a council composed of two representatives each for the Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomen, and one for the Christians. It will be up to this seven-member council to prepare the voting in the province, reporting to parliament, in coordination with the United Nations, by next March 31.

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