[JURIST] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Sunday urged [Reuters report] lawmakers to reintroduce a clause guaranteeing a certain number of legislative seats to Christians and other religious minorities into the country's controversial provincial elections bill [JURIST news archive]. The bill had originally contained the clause, but lawmakers said it was taken out because of uncertainty on how to determine the number of seats to be set aside for the groups. Al-Maliki said that the representation guarantee would help assuage minority fears of oppression, and on Sunday hundreds of Iraqi Christians protested the deletion of the clause. The provincial elections bill was passed [JURIST report] by the country's parliament last week, but still must be approved by a three-member Presidency Council before becoming law. AP has more.
The Iraqi Parliament [official website, in Arabic] has debated the elections bill for months, with a main point of disagreement being over provisions relating to the ethnically-diverse Kirkuk [GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder] region in the north of the country. 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. 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.