Iraq’s parliament unanimously passed the Provincial Election Law on September 24, ending months of political turmoil. The deal was settled by temporarily removing the disputed territories of Kirkuk, as well as the
The bill finally passed when the Kurd-opposed article 24 of the bill which calls for the equal distribution of electoral seats between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen in Kirkuk province was replaced by a proposal submitted by Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special representative to Iraq. The new proposal calls for the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigate the issue of Kirkuk and prepare the grounds for the electoral process in the province.
According to the elections law, the fact-finding committee in Kirkuk will “organize lists, register voters and prepare the ground for conducting Kirkuk’s provincial elections.”
Sarteeb Muhammad, a parliamentarian for the Kurdistan Alliance, welcomed the “consensual agreement” and said in a press statement that his bloc had shown “much flexibility in the negotiations.” He added that “all parties agreed that Kirkuk city’s federal and local government should assume security and administrative responsibility and provide all necessary assistance to the committee.”
Over the past two weeks, heated discussions have been ongoing regarding the exact role of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the committee’s work. Kurds have insisted on a strong position, however opponents said that they should be excluded seeing as they are already represented in the federal government. Political blocs finally reached a compromise allowing Kirkuk’s local government, where Kurds occupy the largest numbers of seats, to participate in preparations for the committee’s work instead of the KRG.
Kurdish parliamentarians expressed happiness that article 24, which had previously been passed country-wide before being vetoed by Iraqi President and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, would no longer apply to Kirkuk province. The previous law which distributed seats equally among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen was seen by Kurds as a threat to their position in the province.
Moreover, they stated clearly that no conclusion should be drawn from the passing of this bill regarding the implementation of article 140, long supported by the Kurds, which calls for a referendum to decide the status of Kirkuk province.
“There are some Arab blocs in parliament who had intentions to abort the implementation of article 140, arguing that there is a new article, article 24… but Kurds are now secure because the article was amended,” said Muhammad.
While Kurds see the amendment of article 24 as a victory, Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and de Mistura were equally positive. De Mistura called Kirkuk “a symbol of national unity and the new order,” and said the deal marked “a good day for Iraq, a day for democracy.” Mashhadani said “that the issue of Kirkuk has united all political blocs and in the near future we can reach consensus on the draft oil and gas law.”