11/09/2009, 00.00
IRAQ
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Baghdad approves electoral law, the issue of Kirkuk remains

The agreement reached yesterday by 141 votes out of 196 deputies present for the vote. The elections will be held in January 2010, but January16, the date originally planned, remains uncertain. A decision on Kirkuk, oil-rich region and the centre of a dispute between Kurds and Arabs, is postponed.

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Iraqi parliament has approved the electoral law, in view of the national vote scheduled for January 2010. The agreement was reached yesterday after weeks of stalemate and a series of bloody attacks which raised fears of a delay in the vote. However, the contentious issue of Kirkuk remains.  The oil-rich region in the north is at the centre of a dispute between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.

The law was approved by 141 parliamentarians out of the 196 present at the session, from the parliamentary total of 275 deputies.  Its approval had been postponed 10 times in the recent past, which led to a situation of instability in the country. Among the points of discord the distribution of seats among the various ethnic groups, the governorate of Kirkuk and the rules for inclusion of candidates on electoral lists.  

U.S. President Barack Obama has hailed the approval "a milestone", in a statement broadcast live on national television. "I want to congratulate - added he added  - the Iraqi leaders on their agreement" which, in the case of regular elections, will allow the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.  

The date of the vote will be decided by the Election Commission in the coming weeks, it seems very likely a shift from 16 January, the date originally planned. Faraj al-Haidari, head of the Commission, promises that "we will work even on holidays" to ensure the smooth running of the poll. A first measure concerns the inclusion of names of candidates for various offices, instead of anonymous lists with the names of parties.  

But political experts point out that Iraq has not done anything to resolve the status of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a region rich in oil and in the middle of a feud between the different ethnic groups in the country. Lawmakers postponed until after the election, the decision on how to allocate control of the capital and the voting results will be considered tentative. Hazim al-Nuaimi, a political analyst, explains that "the situation in Kirkuk is still pending, it is like a bomb waiting to explode. There is still no agreement. "

 

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