Iraq’s parliament has approved a long-delayed law governing national elections scheduled to be held next January, officials have said.
Members of parliament passed the law with 141 votes in favour in the 275-seat parliament after overcoming disagreements over the disputed city of Kirkuk.
Sunday’s vote came after delays the previous night due to concerns from the Sunni Muslim bloc within parliament.
The parliamentary election is seen as a crucial test for the country as it attempts to emerge from the sectarian carnage and civil strife that has followed the US-led invasion in 2003.
While the underlying dispute over Kirkuk has not been resolved by the law’s passage, the agreement includes this crucial positive detail:
The election law provides for an open candidate list, allowing voters to cast their ballot for an individual rather than a party. It also sets aside five seats in parliament for minorities.
It was vital to permit open candidate lists in order to maintain Iraq’s popular trend towards nationalism, elevate truly qualified leaders, and break sectarian party strangleholds on government ministries. Notably, open list elections were supported by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and opposed by some of the major Kurdish and Shia Arab parties, the latter of which are often portrayed in the media as running Iraq at Iran’s behest.
The open source news reports are typically light on detail, but this looks to be a milestone essential to Iraq’s potential stability and political progress.
* The title is of course a light poke at Thomas Ricks’ “Iraq, the Unraveling” series of blog posts, which I believe focus on negative aspects of Iraq without due consideration of what is working, when it works. Today it looks as if something important worked.