By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
It's beginning to look like Iraq won't make it to the polls on time — again.
Though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi just announced Dec. 5 that parliamentary and local elections will be held even earlier than scheduled — on May 12 instead of May 15, to avoid a conflict with Ramadan — several events may be coalescing to delay voting.
The legislature is still struggling with disputes over an election bill that must be approved by Dec. 15 if parliament members want to see its contents put into effect in time. At the same time, lawmakers are also busy hashing out a budget bill. The current session is already in overtime; it was supposed to have ended Nov. 30.
The Independent High Electoral Commission says it needs six months to prepare for elections based on any new laws. Otherwise, the current law will remain in effect. The law as it pertains to legislative elections isn't the main problem, since parliament agreed to abide by the Sainte-Lague method of parliamentary seat allocation. But there are disagreements over local elections (provincial councils), especially regarding the disputed Kirkuk province. Differences raised among the province’s Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish components would be difficult to settle in such a short time.
Rahim al-Daraji, a member of parliament’s Legal Committee and a member of the parliamentary Shiite National Alliance bloc, told Al-Monitor, “The dispute over the elections in Kirkuk is the main obstacle. The province hasn’t witnessed elections since 2005, and several proposals have yet to be settled in the absence of a population census. These proposals include holding elections in the province based on the equation that Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs [each] have 32% of the seats, while the remaining 4% of the seats are allocated to Christians for one round.”
Daraji said the only option he sees now is to extend the legislative term until a new electoral law is approved, and to postpone the elections for weeks or even months.