Middle East News
Kirkuk Arabs threaten to boycott Iraqi elections
Nov 24, 2009, 16:24 GMT
Kirkuk, Iraq - Iraqi Arab politicians in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday said they would boycott the country's upcoming parliamentary elections if parliament did not make changes to the electoral law.
The Arab Political Council in Kirkuk, which represents the Arab population of the city and the surrounding province of al-Tamim, called on parliament to agree to changes Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi had requested when he vetoed the country's new elections law on November 19.
The call raises the stakes in an already tense standoff pitting the ruling, predominantly Shiite-Kurdish alliance against Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority around the conduct of elections that had been scheduled for January.
Al-Hashemi, a Sunni Muslim, had requested that 15 per cent of seats in the new legislature be reserved for expatriate Iraqis, most of whom are thought to be Sunnis, and ethnic minorities in Iraq.
But lawmakers on Monday approved a new version of law that says expatriate and internally displaced Iraqis will vote as though they were in their home provinces.
Sunnis say the scheme will result in a decrease in the number of seats they will occupy in the new parliament.
The new law 'did considerable damage to the interests of the Iraqi people, which is the biggest loser in this case,' the council said Tuesday.
The council charged that the Iraqi constitution had been drafted to instill 'ethnic' and 'sectarian' divisions.
'The constitution is full of mines that threaten the country and rend its national unity,' the council charged.
'The Arab Political Council in Kirkuk calls on the Iraqi people and members of parliament to address this ... coup and to respect the sanctity of Iraqi blood, the sacrifices of the people, and to work to redress deprivation, oppression and injustice,' the statement read.
Debate over voting in Kirkuk, one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions of Iraq, stalled the election law's passage for months.
Many Iraqi Kurds hope to make the city, and its nearby oilfields, the capital of a future independent state, calling it their 'Jerusalem.' Iraqi Arabs, allied with the region's Turkmen minority, view the city as an integral part of Iraq.