BAGHDAD — The Iraqi parliament has approved a long-awaited election law that will pave the way for elections next January and facilitate the further withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. In passing the law, Iraqi parliament members managed to overcome disputes regarding voting procedures in the city of Kirkuk.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki praised the passage of the new election law as a major achievement in the democratic political process.
First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Khaled al-Attiyah, who chaired the session, said "the law received 141 votes from the 195 parliament members who were in attendance." The Iraqi parliament is composed of 275 seats.
In approving the long-delayed election law on Nov. 8 and paving the way for elections next January, Iraq’s parliament has surmounted a crisis that could have delayed the planned U.S. troop withdrawal process.
U.S. President Barack Obama said, "This is an important step, as the Iraqi people continue to bear responsibility for their future. I want to congratulate Iraq's leaders for reaching this agreement. The United States will continue to stand by Iraq as a strong partner and friend."
One of the major issues that led to delays in passing the election law was related to voter registration in the disputed city of Kirkuk. Kurds consider Kirkuk part of the Kurdish area that enjoys autonomous rule in northern Iraq, while the Arab-led central government opposes all efforts to remove Kirkuk from its control. Arabs and Turkmen also claim that the Kurds have encouraged an influx of immigrants into the city to sway the vote in their favour.
According to the new legislation, however, polls in Kirkuk will open at the same time as polls elsewhere in Iraq. The votes may, however, be subject to review and examination, particularly if there appears to be a large recent increase in Kirkuk’s voting population.