by Ghassan Awad
BAGHDAD, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi officials expressed concern about the success of the upcoming national elections, scheduled for Jan. 16, after the Iraqi parliament failed to overcome disagreement over the proposed new election law, as the earliest time a new law could be enacted would be next week.
ACCUSING EXTERIOR INTERVENTION
An Iraqi official revealed that some political blocs held secret meetings in some neighboring countries to destabilize the results of the upcoming elections due on Jan. 16 next year, the state-run al-Sabah newspaper reported on Saturday.
According to al-Sabah, Haidar al-Ibadi, a leading member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa party, accused some political blocs of trying to hinder the progress of the upcoming elections as he "got information showing that secret meetings were held by some political forces in several neighboring countries under regional intelligence guardianship."
Ibadi, also a senior lawmaker, expressed sorrow over such meetings, calling on the political authorities here to conclude a "national agreement to prevent the political sides from resorting to exterior sides or from cooperating with these sides to fail the political process in the country."
Meanwhile, Kurdish lawmaker Adel Berwari, a member of parliament's security and defense committee, revealed reports presented by Iraq's intelligence and security institutions referring to "regional and Arab Gulf sides pay billions of dollars to push for the failure of the democratic process in Iraq."
Berwari claimed that "interior sides who have communications and relationships with the intelligence of those countries were financed directly or by institutions or charitable organizations to work against the current democratic regime."
Recently, the Iraqi prime minister also repeated his criticism on neighboring countries, saying that "spending money to weaken Iraq would fail."
HAND-OVER TO HIGHER POLITICAL COUNCIL
On Wednesday, Iraqi Parliament Speaker Ayad al-Samarrai said that the lawmakers failed to overcome differences over the proposed bill for national elections set for next January.
Samarrai told reporters that his parliament's presidency referred the controversial issue of the elections law to a higher political council comprising President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the heads of political parliamentary blocs, in addition to Samarrai himself.
"The presidency of the Council of Representatives (Parliament) has decided to refer the issue of the elections law to the Political Council for National Security," Samarrai said, adding that the lawmakers had failed to agree on the disputed issues, particularly, the issue of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
Samarrai said "it was unfortunate that some political blocs changed their political stances they adopted previously," confirming that the current stalemate does not serve the political process in the country.
Also on Saturday, the al-Zaman newspaper quoted Kurdish parliament member Mahmoud Othman as saying that "the political council should meet to discuss the project of the elections law."
"The only spiked issue is Kirkuk because it is political and complicated and it needs a kind of flexibility which we hope to discuss it," Othman said.
In a statement issued on Friday by the office of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Hashimi said, "the higher political council will reach a compromise solution that satisfies all political blocs."
Hashimi suggested that "the council should not only focus on Kirkuk issue but also on the legislation of the elections law as soon as possible."
However, the northern Kurdish region recently agreed unanimously on refusing giving Kirkuk city a special stance in the next parliamentary elections.
"All Kurdistan's sides and parties object giving privacy to Kirkuk city," Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's northern Kurdish region.
On Friday, Iraq's President Jalal Talabani said in a statement issued by his office that "the Political Council for National Security will meet soon to discuss approving the elections law."
CONCERNS OF ELECTION DELAY
On Friday in the holy city of Karbala, Sheik Abdul-Mahdi Al Karbalaie, the representative of Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, expressed Sistani's concerns over the possible delay of January elections, warning that the delay could lead to chaos, as the new elections law would organize the crucial national ballot.
A delay in the balloting "would lead to political and constitutional vacuum and security chaos," Karbalaie said during Friday noon prayers in the Imam al-Hussein mosque in Karbala.
On Oct. 4, the Iraqi lawmakers started their discussions over the new draft law of elections that is expected to adopt a new system of the open-list, in which the names of candidates and their parties are listed, instead of the closed-list system which was adopted in 2005 elections.
Two days later, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said that he supports the open-list system in the upcoming January's general elections, otherwise the turnout will suffer negative impact if closed-list system is adopted by the parliament, a Sistani spokesman said.
Observers here see that the stumbling block to approve the proposed amendments on the electoral law is mainly differences among the parliamentary blocs over the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad, and whether the voting system would be carried out by closed list or open list.
They see that Kirkuk's issue is one of the most complicated issues, as the oil-rich province is disputed among Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish communities.
The Kurds demand to incorporate Kirkuk in their autonomous region, while the Arab and Turkmen communities are opposing the Kurdish ambitions and insisted either to stay under Baghdad control or to be a separate federal region.
Some Iraqi, U.S. and U.N. officials fear that the national election which is crucial to the withdrawal plan of U.S. forces from Iraq could be delayed if lawmakers fail to pass a revised elections law as soon as possible.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday it was important for Iraq's parliament to overcome delays and pass the elections law, as he welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Washington this week.