It is not looking good for the holding of provincial elections in Iraq this year.
First the high electoral commission warned that if enabling legislation was not passed by the end of July, it would push them back from October to Dec. 22.
Now, the contentious issue of the province of Kirkuk may have delayed them further. Kirkuk has Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. The Kurds wish to annex it to their Kurdistan Regional Government, seeing its oil wealth as potentially key to an independent Kurdish state in the future. The annexation is opposed by Arabs and most Turkmen. It is also opposed by Turkey.
Sunni speaker of the house, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, authorized a secret vote on what to do about Kirkuk Province (also called Tamim). S
ome had argued that Kirkuk should vote like any other province. But the parliamentarians voting on Tuesday, according to the LAT’s Ned Parker, passed a “provision” that “called for a committee to be set up to review the problems in Kirkuk and take interim steps until local elections are scheduled, including apportioning power in the provincial government equally among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens.”
The secret ballot had been opposed by the Kurdish MPs, who staged a walk-out, along with some Shiite allies. When this provision was passed, they warned of blood in the streets in Kirkuk. (Actually, that development would not reflect well on the Kurds, since they would be turning to violence over a measure passed by a majority of the quorum in an elected parliament.)
It is widely expected that President Jalal Talabani with use his power of veto against the bill.
Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that the Kurdistan Alliance with 58 seats in parliament has been a key pillar of support for the al-Maliki government. Were the Kurds to be deeply angered, they could pull out of his de facto coalition, leaving him much weakened. The tiff with the Kurds comes only days after the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accord Front finally rejoined the government.
Kirkuk sees regular political violence. On Tuesday, McClatchy reports, “On Monday night, a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Kirkuk city. Two policemen were killed( including the deputy of Irouba police station Colonel Khabat Aziz) and 5 others were injured.”