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Iraq: The Presidential Council Approves the Provincial Election Law

(Oct. 22, 2008) On September 24, 2008, the Iraqi Presidential Council signed the amended Provincial Election Law into law after a parliamentary debate on the legislation that resulted in the modification of article 24 of the Law. Although Iraqi legislators had previously passed the Provincial Election Law, the Presidential Council vetoed it and sent it back to Parliament for reassessment because of their objections to article 24, which concerns the election of the provincial council in the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. According to President Jalal Talabani, the Presidential Council rejected the article because it contradicts article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which allows Kurds to return to Kirkuk after having been forced to leave the city by the Baathist regime during the 1970s and 1980s. (The Enactment of the Provincial Election Law, AZZAMAN NEWSPAPER, Sept. 24, 2008, available at

The Provincial Election Law, as amended, paves the way for provincial representation for Sunni Muslims, who boycotted the regional elections in 2005. It also abolishes the closed party list voting system, known in Arabic as al-intkhab bi-elaeha al-moglaka. The closed party list is an electoral system under which voters have to elect all candidates who are nominated by the various political parties. Voters do not have the ability to vote against any of the parties' chosen candidates.

The newly enacted Law also regulates the electoral process and election campaigns in all of the Iraqi provinces, except the city of Kirkuk. Members of Parliament have agreed to draft a separate election law on provincial elections in that city. Article 2 of the Law authorizes the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission to establish provincial, district, and precinct-level election bodies. The Law also specifies voting requirements that every voter must meet in order to cast a valid vote. For example, article 5 prohibits those under the age of 18 from voting. The Law not only governs the voters' age and legal capacity, but also determines the candidates' eligibility. Thus, article 8 prohibits members of the former Ba'ath Party from taking part in any future elections. Moreover, the Law enhances women's political participation; article 11 establishes a quota of 25% of the seats to be set aside for Iraqi women in the provincial councils. However, it denies religious minorities the right to reserve any seats in those councils. Regarding election campaigns, article 31 forbids candidates from campaigning in government buildings; other provisions of the Law prohibit government employees from publicly endorsing any candidate and exclude militia-supported political groups from campaigning. (The Provincial Election Law, Sept. 25, 2008, the Iraqi Council of Representatives website, available at