Iraqi Parliament Returns To Tackle Issue Of Election Law

Iraqi Parliament Returns To Tackle Issue Of Election Law
September 10th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraqi Parliament Returns To Tackle Issue Of Election Law

Iraqi Parliament Returns To Tackle Issue Of Election Law
New York Times
September 10, 2008
Pg. 10

By Campbell Robertson and Atheer Kakan
BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers returned to Parliament on Tuesday after a month’s recess facing a host of unresolved issues, including the passage of a crucial provincial election law.
The election law, which was stalled by bitter disputes in the last session, is seen as a vital step toward reintegrating Iraqi groups that had been underrepresented in the political process, primarily because they boycotted the vote in 2005. Officials from the United Nations, the United States and Britain have all pressed Iraqi politicians to arrive at a solution soon to take advantage of Iraq’s improved security situation.
Lawmakers had envisioned holding elections this fall, but the date has been steadily pushed back. At this point, many legislators say, the earliest elections would be early next year.
When Parliament adjourned last month, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker, suggested the formation of a committee to explore solutions to the impasse during the recess and raised the possibility of a special session to pass a new election law. None of this happened.
The main sticking point is the status of Kirkuk, a city populated by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens. Kurdish officials insist that Kirkuk rightfully belongs to Kurdistan; Sunni Arab and Turkmen lawmakers have proposed a power-sharing agreement to govern the city.
The Kurds, with one of their own, Jalal Talabani, holding the presidency and as allies of the major Shiite parties, can veto any election measure that does not meet their specifications. Indeed, just this summer Mr. Talabani vetoed a previous election bill that Parliament had struggled long and hard to produce.
Tuesday’s session was routine and relatively brief. A meeting of the leaders of the main party blocs is scheduled for Wednesday to revisit the election law issue.
“We hope to approach something final,” said Salim al-Jubouri, a member of Tawafiq, the largest Sunni bloc in Parliament.
Several options are on the table, lawmakers said. Parliament could adopt the plan drawn up by the United Nations last month, which would simply put aside the Kirkuk issue and let the election take place in the rest of the country. Another plan is to let the elections go forward under the 2005 law currently in place, with a few amendments.
Also on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Oil Ministry said it had agreed to establish a joint venture company with Royal Dutch Shell in a deal worth more than $3 billion. It would be the country’s first deal with a Western oil company in the post-Hussein era. The joint venture would build pipes and a processing plant that could capture and use what a spokesman for the ministry called “wasted natural gas,” or gas that is a byproduct of oil wells and is currently burned off.
Under the deal, Shell would hold a 49 percent stake in the company while the state-run South Oil Company’s stake would be 51 percent.
In August, Iraq signed an oil deal with China worth up to $3 billion. That agreement updated an 11-year-old contract to develop the Ahdab oil field southeast of Baghdad.
Mohammed Hussein and Ali Hameed contributed reporting.

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