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.
She 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 war.
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 central government.
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.
Prime 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.