Iraq Parliament passes landmark election law

Rick Moran
For a country that knew nothing except royal oppression and dictatorial diktat, the Iraqis appear to be getting the hang of this democracy thing.

Note to our own lawmakers: the Iraqis have just passed an election law in a "tri-partisan" spirit of cooperation, crafting a compromise that is elegant in its formulation and clever in its enactment.

The critical issue was the city of Kirkuk - claimed by Kurds, Shias, and the small minority of Turkeman who all wanted to control the oil wealth that flows from that city.

Timothy Williams of the New York Times reports on how the issue was resolved:

Tens of thousands of Kurds were forced out of Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein, who replaced them with Arabs in order to tighten his grip on the region's oil. Since the United States-led invasion that ousted Mr. Hussein in 2003, thousands of Kurds have moved back.Arabs and Turkmens in Kirkuk had favored using voter registration lists from 2004 or 2005, while Kurds wanted to use voter rolls from 2009 that reflected their substantially higher numbers.

The agreement reached Sunday, brokered by the United States and the United Nations, will use voter lists from 2009, but if the number of eligible voters in a particular area is deemed by members of Parliament to be suspiciously high, a committee overseen by the United Nations will be formed to determine whether fraud has occurred, according to a draft of the law.

The compromise satisfied each of the groups competing for dominance in Kirkuk. "We have passed a stage, a crisis, and no one is a loser," said Abbas al-Bayti, a Turkmen legislator.

Osama al-Najafi, an Arab legislator, said: "There will be no injustice for the people of Kirkuk. This is a great victory for their historical rights."

The election will also allow voters to choose individual candidates as part of an "open list," as opposed to the closed-list ballot in which voters pick political parties, who in turn choose people to occupy seats in Parliament.

"List" voting is used successfully in Lebanon where there is a mixture of Sunnis, Christians, and Shias. The solution shows the Iraqis have grown up quite a bit from their earlier days of Parliament where one faction or another would simply walk out if they wanted to make a point.

Perhaps it is surprising that the compromise is something only a much more mature democracy would be capable of achieving. Such cooperation bodes well for the future as the Parliament moves on to address other sticky issues like sharing the oil wealth and how to deal with Saddam era criminals.



For a country that knew nothing except royal oppression and dictatorial diktat, the Iraqis appear to be getting the hang of this democracy thing.

Note to our own lawmakers: the Iraqis have just passed an election law in a "tri-partisan" spirit of cooperation, crafting a compromise that is elegant in its formulation and clever in its enactment.

The critical issue was the city of Kirkuk - claimed by Kurds, Shias, and the small minority of Turkeman who all wanted to control the oil wealth that flows from that city.

Timothy Williams of the New York Times reports on how the issue was resolved:

Tens of thousands of Kurds were forced out of Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein, who replaced them with Arabs in order to tighten his grip on the region's oil. Since the United States-led invasion that ousted Mr. Hussein in 2003, thousands of Kurds have moved back.

Arabs and Turkmens in Kirkuk had favored using voter registration lists from 2004 or 2005, while Kurds wanted to use voter rolls from 2009 that reflected their substantially higher numbers.

The agreement reached Sunday, brokered by the United States and the United Nations, will use voter lists from 2009, but if the number of eligible voters in a particular area is deemed by members of Parliament to be suspiciously high, a committee overseen by the United Nations will be formed to determine whether fraud has occurred, according to a draft of the law.

The compromise satisfied each of the groups competing for dominance in Kirkuk. "We have passed a stage, a crisis, and no one is a loser," said Abbas al-Bayti, a Turkmen legislator.

Osama al-Najafi, an Arab legislator, said: "There will be no injustice for the people of Kirkuk. This is a great victory for their historical rights."

The election will also allow voters to choose individual candidates as part of an "open list," as opposed to the closed-list ballot in which voters pick political parties, who in turn choose people to occupy seats in Parliament.

"List" voting is used successfully in Lebanon where there is a mixture of Sunnis, Christians, and Shias. The solution shows the Iraqis have grown up quite a bit from their earlier days of Parliament where one faction or another would simply walk out if they wanted to make a point.

Perhaps it is surprising that the compromise is something only a much more mature democracy would be capable of achieving. Such cooperation bodes well for the future as the Parliament moves on to address other sticky issues like sharing the oil wealth and how to deal with Saddam era criminals.