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Iraq parliament approves controversial elections law

[JURIST] The Iraqi Parliament [official website, in Arabic] on Wednesday approved a controversial bill providing for provincial elections in much of the country. Kurdish legislators had strongly opposed a provision establishing a provincial council in Kirkuk [GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder] made up of equal numbers of Kurdish, Arab and Turkmenian representatives. After several failures [JURIST report], the parliament accepted a UN-proposed compromise [White House press release] allowing elections in the rest of the country to proceed, as former opponents of the plan said they were confident an agreement could be reached to carry out elections in Kirkuk. The legislation is expected to be approved by the three-member Presidency Council, allowing for elections by January. Earlier this month, Iraqi lawmakers agreed to temporarily divide control of Kirkuk [JURIST report] among the city's ethnic groups until a permanent governing plan is established. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

In July, Kurdish parliamentarians staged a walkout [JURIST report], delaying a vote on the proposed provincial election bill that they said was unconstitutional. The bill passed despite the boycott, but Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [official website, in Arabic; party profile] and the two other members of the Iraqi Presidency Council later refused to sign it [JURIST report] because it had been passed by an incomplete parliament. In February, Iraq's Presidency Council rejected an earlier draft elections law [JURIST report] that detailed the relationship between Iraq's central and local governments, sending the legislation back to parliament. The draft law was part of a package of legislation, approved [JURIST report] by the parliament earlier that month, that also included the 2008 budget and an amnesty bill [JURIST report] allowing the release of roughly 5,000 prisoners.

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