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Iraqi Parliament Approves New Electoral Law After Raucous Debate

The Iraqi parliament has approved a long delayed electoral law, amid bitter quarrels among Arab, Kurdish and Turkomen politicians. The electoral law is necessary for parliamentary elections to be held close to their original scheduled date on January 16th.

Following an unusually bitter and raucous debate, the Iraqi parliament has approved a new electoral law that sets the framework for parliamentary elections due to be held in January.

The vote follows a last-minute compromise and hours of back-room dealings that kept observers and the parties themselves holding their breath until the final clause by clause vote was cast.

Iraqi TV reported that going into the vote further conflict had erupted, despite an earlier compromise, but the last-minute dispute was resolved and most parliament members raised their hands to approve the electoral law.

The key stumbling block that had legislators feuding for weeks was the complex issue of who would represent the ethnically divided, oil rich city of Kirkuk.

An alliance of Sunni Arab politicians was pushing to divide seats equally in Kirkuk between Arabs, Kurds and Turcomen, while a Kurdish coalition was pushing to use a 2009 electoral roll, reflecting recent growth in the city's Kurdish population.

Legislator Selim Jebbari of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party insisted the compromise fit the circumstances. He said his side did not get everything that it wanted out of this deal and we could have held out longer to gain more points, but it seeme d like the best deal.

Member of parliament Mohsen Saadoun of the Kurdish Alliance also tried to paint a positive picture.

He says the vote to approve the electoral law, today, indicates that everyone that participated in this debate has finally succeeded in achieving success, which is in Iraq's national interest.

As weeks of logjam threatened to go unresolved, the head of Iraq's Electoral Committee, Faraj al-Haidari, warned Iraqi politicians that it would become impossible to hold parliamentary elections in January if they did not approve the new electoral law.

A lengthy election delay could also have hindered plans by the United States to withdraw its forces from Iraq during the course of 2010.