The controversial provincial election law has finally passed the Iraqi Parliament, accompanied by a mass walkout by the Kurdish representatives, a raft of procedural complaints about secret voting, and warnings that it is impossible to carry out an honest, credible election on the scheduled date. A happy ending!
The law passed with 127 votes out of the 140 members in the room (out of 275 total). That's 46% of Parliament voting in favor, but it's legal, just barely - a quorum requires 50% +1, or 139 members. The procedures used by Speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani ruffled more than a few feathers. The Deputy parliamentary speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, for one, "said the secret ballot was unconstitutional." Tareq al-Harb, identified by Aswat al-Iraq as a legal expert, seemed to agree and dubbed the vote boycotted by an entire Iraqi community as well as the failure to vote on the move to a secret vote against the constitution.
The Kurdish walkout over the arrangements for Kirkuk likely spells trouble. At a minimum, it seems likely that President Jalal Talabani will not vote to ratify the law, which means it will not come into effect. Even worse would be if the decision drives Kurds to now demand the implementation of Article 140 (the constitutionally mandated but deeply contentious referendum on the status of Kirkuk and disputed areas), an issue which the UN has been painstakingly negotiating for many months to avoid disaster. And then, of course, there's the prospect of a mass Kurdish boycott of the provincial elections leading to a round of disenfranchisement reminiscent of the Sunni community in 2005.
Bottom line: the rush to pass the law by an arbitrary deadline likely means that it will not be ratified by Talabani and thus the elections will not be held even by the end of the year, or - if they are - that they will generate more problems than they would solve. Oh well...