The head of one of Iraq's most volatile provinces said the province's upcoming council elections should be postponed due to violence, local media reported on Tuesday.
Ibrahim Hassan Baglan, head of the Provincial Council in Diyala Province, called for a six-month delay due to the lack of security in the volatile province and the displacement of some 27,000 citizens in religious violence, dpa reported.
The Iraqi government hopes the polls, the first run by Iraq since the US invasion, will help ease communal tensions by giving a share in power to religious and ethnic factions that boycotted the 2005 election. The powerful local councils control issues including education and infrastructure.
Baglan said some 8,000 homes were destroyed in his province with no compensation for the homeless. High rates of unemployment in the province would also hinder voting, he said.
He told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency that most of the candidates have been receiving death threats from militants groups. He called on the parliament, the Presidential Council and the government to postpone the elections until the situation improves.
Provincial elections are due to take place on January 31 in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, excluding the three northern Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dahuk as well as the multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk.
Meanwhile, leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, Sayyid Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, urged Iraqis to vote in the coming provincial elections.
"These elections are a transformational phase in Iraq's modern history," the leader said speaking before a gathering of people in al-Qarada square in central Baghdad.
He urged the candidates to avoid incitement to violence during their campaigns.