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IRAQ: Election woes

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Iraq’s parliament formed a committee today to strike a compromise on a provincial elections law that has been languishing since late July. The factions chose a six-man panel to resolve the festering dispute that threatens to delay the vote until next year.

Provincial elections have been touted as a pivotal step to promoting national reconciliation by giving a voice to Iraq’s Sunni population and loyalists to Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr’s movement, who skipped the last such vote in 2005.

The election legislation has been delayed by a rift among Kurdish and Arab lawmakers over the status of the oil-rich northern region of Kirkuk. Arabs have wanted to delay a vote in the province, while the Kurds have insisted Kirkuk’s status should be resolved now. The dispute prevented the parliament members from passing the electoral law before the lawmakers adjourned in August for a summer break.

At the same time, lawmakers have said they believe the main political parties are using Kirkuk as an excuse not to hold an election that they are afraid could cost them seats in provincial government.

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Some political leaders ignored phone calls during the summer parliament session from President George W. Bush, pleading for the sides to strike a compromise. Till now, it is a question mark if the new panel, headed by parliament speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani, means business or aims to just delay the matter of elections further.

— Raheem Salman and Ned Parker in Baghdad

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for ‘L.A. Times updates,’ and then clicking on the ‘World: Mideast’ box.


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