Middle East

Iraq ratifies new election law, paving way for early vote

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s president ratified on Thursday a new election law aimed at giving political independents a better chance of winning seats in parliament, paving the way for early elections next year.

President Barham Saleh stressed the need for free, fair and transparent balloting that would restore the Iraqi citizens’ confidence in the legitimacy of the process.

The new law changes each of the country’s 18 provinces into several electoral districts and prevents parties from running on unified lists, which has in the past helped them easily sweep all the seats in a specific province. Instead, the seats would go to whoever gets the most votes in the electoral districts.

Drafting a new election law has been a key demand of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have been taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south since last year. The protesters have called for an end to endemic corruption by a political class that is largely seen as having squandered Iraq’s resources through greed and mismanagement over the past years.

The protests were met with a heavy military crackdown and hundreds were killed.

The Iraqi president said that although the new law was not perfect, it signaled progress and had the potential to enable future reforms. He called for the quick fulfillment of remaining conditions required to hold elections, including biometric voter registration and reforming the electoral commission.

A dispute over the mechanism to replace retired judges at the Federal Supreme Court — the body that rules on constitutional disputes — still needs to be settled before the elections can take place.

“We have to create a political climate which will help alleviate this suffering, as well as ensuring justice and integrity during the choosing of a strong government,” Saleh said in a speech Thursday. “This is what we aspire to, through an electoral law which will enable Iraqis from all walks of life to vote and to participate in elections, God willing, without the historical problems of forgery, manipulation and pressure.”

Iraq’s Parliament earlier this week passed the final version of the new law despite objections from some political parties. The 329-member chamber was elected in May 2018. The vote is held every four years, but the protesters have been demanding early elections.

Meanwhile, in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, at least three women were killed and three policemen were wounded in twin blasts on Thursday, according to a security statement.

The Security Media Cell, affiliated with the armed forces, said the women died when a motorcycle bomb exploded, while the policemen died in a second explosion that went off when they arrived at the scene of the first blast.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Fighters loyal to the Islamic State group, which was defeated in Iraq in late 2017, have recently stepped up attacks in the area.

A protester waves an Iraqi flag while Security forces surround the protest site during ongoing anti-government protests in Basra, Iraq, Wednesday, November 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

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