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Election officials in Iraq say the next general election will take
place January 21. The announcement one day after a last-minute deal
on the nation's electoral law, means the vote will be held within the
time limits set by the constitution. Holding the vote will clear the
way for the scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of U.S. troops in Iraq
Electoral official Hamdeya el Hosseiny says
the election commission is completing its preparations to hold the vote
during the first month of next year.
noted the reason for the delay from the originally scheduled date of
January 16 was because the commission had stopped working while the
lawmakers debated the law.
Failure to hold the vote by the end
of January, a deadline set by the constitution, threatened the creation
of a political void. The commission has numerous logistical obstacles
to overcome to hold a general election in a country recovering from
Officials had originally hoped to have three months to
organize the poll. But Iraqis and others have expressed relief that at
least now a vote seems all but assured. Lawmakers had repeatedly
postponed adopting an electoral law, and continued their squabbling
much of Sunday.
External pressure, including the reported
mediation of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, was heavy to ensure the
lawmakers acted. A key stumbling block was Kirkuk. Ethnic Kurds
would like to see the oil-rich city under the control of the Kurdistan
Regional Government. Ethnic Turkomen and Arabs want it under the
Lawmakers agreed the vote can go ahead
using the current voter rolls that favor Kurds who have recently been
returning to the city, instead of older registration lists. But they
said the results will be provisional, and subject to review, an
indication the future of the city is far from settled.
Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the passage of the vote a historic
victory of the will of the people." U.S. President Barack Obama called
it a "significant breakthrough."
Mr. Obama noted the agreement
allows for "the orderly and responsible transition" of U.S. combat
troops from Iraq. American troops are scheduled to leave the country
by the end of 2011. While the security situation has improved greatly
in the past two years, militants have recently pulled off attacks in
the center of Baghdad.