Iraq's Kurds threaten to boycott elections
Iraqi Kurds threatened Tuesday to boycott national elections slated for January unless parliament seats are reallocated in what they consider a fair manner, throwing into doubt the vote which could determine how quickly U.S. can troops go home, AP reported.
Just a week ago, legislators and observers were celebrating the passage of a key election law needed to carry out the voting. But the new Kurdish threat coupled with a veto threat earlier in the week by the country's Sunni vice president could derail what would be only the second nationwide parliamentary elections since Saddam Hussein was booted from power.
The office of Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani said the way seats are distributed according to the election law is unfair to Kurds.
"Unless this seat allocation formula is reconsidered in a just manner, the people of (the) Kurdistan Region will be compelled to boycott the election," a statement posted on Barzani's Web site said. Three northern provinces make up the Kurdish autonomous region, and are represented by their own parliament as well as president.
The statement also said the current division of seats is "an attempt to reduce the number of Kurdistan Region representatives in the next Iraqi parliament and diminish their achievements."
Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, threatened earlier this week to veto the crucial election law unless voters outside Iraq are guaranteed more seats. Most Iraqis living abroad are Sunni.
The boycott and veto threats come after lawmakers haggled for weeks over the election legislation before passing it on Nov. 8, much to the relief of the United States. The U.S. has tied its withdrawal of all combat troops to the national vote. U.S. military officials have said they will begin to draw down forces about 60 days after the election, hoping for assurances by then that Iraq is on stable footing.
Under a plan by President Barack Obama, all U.S. combat troops must be out of Iraq by the end of August 2010. The rest of the troops, such as trainers and support troops, must leave by the end of 2011.
Lawmakers and members of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission were meeting Tuesday with parliamentary leaders to try to hash out a solution to the vice president's demands, commission member Qassim al-Aboudi said.