Iraqi parliament again delays vote on allowing direct elections


BAGHDAD — Iraq’s parliament failed again Tuesday to vote on
legislation that would allow Iraqis to cast ballots directly for candidates in
parliamentary elections scheduled for January, rather than choosing political
party lists that don’t name the candidates.

Iraq’s political parties publicly hail open voting, but
behind closed doors many of them oppose it because direct voting would make it
hard for the parties that won the elections in 2005 to win again in 2010, said
Sabah al-Saedi, a member of parliament from the Fadhila party.

“They must believe that their candidates don’t have a
good chance of being elected as individuals, and so they work to abort the new
election law by any means,” he said. “But publicly, they applaud it.
… Those who are in power wish to stay in power. The open list will defeat

Some lawmakers said legislators were using a dispute between
Sunni Muslim Arabs and Sunni Kurds and Turkomen over how elections should be
conducted in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk to delay a vote.

“I will tell you frankly that no bloc has the courage
to say ‘no’ to the open list system, even if in truth they are afraid of
it,” said Izzuddin al-Dowla, an independent lawmaker. “So Kirkuk has
become the ready excuse.”

Former dictator Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime
mounted an “Arabization” campaign that forced Kurds and Turkomen out
of Kirkuk, but Arab and Turkomen politicians and residents in Kirkuk province
say an influx of Kurds since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 has more than compensated
for that.

Arabs and Turkomen have rejected Kurds’ attempts to annex
the province to their semiautonomous northern region of Kurdistan, but
switching to a direct vote probably would give the area’s Kurdish majority the
upper hand and threaten the Arabs and Turkomen.

The parliament has passed legislation that provides for
power in Kirkuk to be shared equally by the province’s three major ethnic
groups and for adequate representation for smaller groups. The Turkomen
National Front has threatened to seek international mediation if it’s not

An official in the parliament speaker’s office, who spoke
only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the
matter, said the Arabs and Turkomen in Kirkuk stood to lose the most if the direct
election law passed. In spite of that, he said, their representatives have been
unwilling to make concessions for fear of being accused of selling out their

“Both parties concerned are inflexible,” the
official said. “They feel that the issue is of inordinate sensitivity, and
that deprives them of room to maneuver.”

Previous articleAstrology | Week of Oct. 15, 2009
Next articleAfghanistan braces for round 2 of marathon election