Iraqi parliament approves delayed election law

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Iraq's parliament has passed a long-delayed election law required for national elections to be held next January. The law won approval on Sunday from 141 of the almost 200 Iraq lawmakers present after a tense, day-long debate.

The lawmakers overcame a key dispute about how to conduct the election in northern Iraq's ethnically-mixed and oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Iraqi Kurds have long sought to incorporate Kirkuk into their autonomous region in northern Iraq. However, many of the city's Arab and Turkmen residents oppose such a move and want to remain under the control of Iraq's central government.

Iraq's upcoming national elections are a crucial test for the country as it takes more responsibility for its own security ahead of a gradual withdrawal of US forces.

A spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, Qasim Al-Abood, said to the Al Jazeera news agency that it wouldn't be possible to have the polls until January 23 at the earliest due to the delays.

"Unfortunately, we have lost time for January 16. We have sent a letter to parliament telling them we have lost that date. Still there is an opportunity to have the election in time, according to the constitution [...] by the 31st of January," he said, speaking to Al Jazeera.

It was not clear if the delayed passage of the law will give Iraqi authorities enough time to hold the elections as scheduled in mid-January. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had warned that Iraq could spiral into a new cycle of chaos if the elections do not go ahead.