A few days ago I noted with dismay the appearance of a bunch of proposals to revert to the old provincial elections law if the Parliament could not soon come to agreement on a new one. I said that I had assumed - and hoped - that this was just a bargaining tactic to try and break through the stalemate, but that I had been hearing disturbing rumors that it might be disastrously for real. Fortunately, today it's looking like my first instinct was right as some relatively good news appears on the horizon. According to a number of independent reports, the Parliamentary committees on elections and provinces have reached agreement based roughly on United Nations proposals for Kirkuk. Mahmoud Mashhadani, speaker of the Parliament, reportedly now plans to call a vote tomorrow. There are several hurdles including the Parliamentary vote (news of which was given to the media but which has not yet been scheduled as far as I know) and approval by the Presidency Council. But it appears to be very encouraging news - particularly in that their reaching a tough agreement during Ramadan signals a sense of urgency. Assuming that there are no great surprises in the new draft law (details remain sketchy), I hope this passes and that it paves the way for an election based on widely acceptable rules at the end of December - with serious, credible independent monitoring and other safeguards to ensure a fair vote.
UPDATE: several keen-eyed observers have pointed out that it's not quite right to talk about the "old provincial election law", since none actually seems to exist. As one friend put it:
"The only law the COR has ever passed on elections was in late 2005 in advance of the December national elections, and by my reading it doesn't apply to provincial elections. The only time it mentions them is in Article 1C, but all it says is that there isn't a specific text for them in the law. Does that mean that you can extrapolate the rules for provincial elections, or does that mean that the law doesn't cover them? My view is the latter. The January 2005 provincial elections were developed in consultation with the UN according to the TAL, but I can't find a text of the law or even a description of it. Would it be whatever this law, if it's even a law, that they would revert to? I assume this would have the same binding force of the CPA orders, but I could be wrong.
What various politicians were proposing/threatening was to run the elections under the rules of the last round of provincial elections in January 2005. Most of what I saw was a political, not legal, discussion. But as my correspondent notes, there doesn't seem to be any legal basis for doing this, in addition to all the political objections I've noted. All the more reason to hope that the vote reportedly scheduled for tomorrow on a provincial elections law goes ahead... though it appears that there are still some disagreements between Kurdish MPs and others about the details of the proposed compromise.