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9 November 2009

Iraq government passes election law

Agreement reached after weeks of deadlock

By Staff Blogger

Iraqi MPs have ended weeks of deadlock, passing an election law which is crucial to allowing national polls to go ahead in January 2010.

Weeks of delay as MPs struggled to reach an agreement had raised fears that the parliamentary election might be delayed, with the risk of encouraging greater instability.

US president Barack Obama congratulated MPs. He said: “I want to congratulate Iraq’s leaders for reaching this agreement. The United States will continue to stand with Iraq as a strong partner and as a friend.”

The law needed to be in place at least 90 days before voting. It was approved by a wide majority, with 141 of 196 voting for it.

The vote has been delayed 10 times over the last few weeks, as factions were split on a range of issues, including how candidates were to be listed on ballot papers, and the distribution of seats in the contested, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

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On Sunday, it was decided that politicians standing for office would be named on the electoral lists. In previous elections, ballot papers have merely displayed an anonymous party name, a system which benefits established parties.

In Kirkuk, and other areas where the ethnic mix causes dispute over the electoral rolls, results would be provisional.

The UN had warned that if the law was not passed, it might not endorse the election, which is seen as key to strengthening Iraqi democracy. The smooth passage of the poll is also essential to a planned US pull-out.

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