(AFP) – Aug 3, 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) — A parliament debate expected Sunday over Iraq's disputed provincial election bill that has raised tensions in the autonomous Kurdish region was delayed after too few lawmakers turned up to form a quorum.
"Several members attended the session, but the meeting was adjourned because we had not reached a quorum," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament.
Observers said the failure to reach a quorum is another signal that lawmakers are struggling to strike a compromise over the draft that will govern polls originally scheduled for October, but which are now expected to be put off.
Iraq's 275-member parliament on July 22 adopted a draft bill which would have allowed provincial polls -- keenly awaited by the United States -- to go ahead as scheduled on October 1.
But the three-member presidency council, headed by President Jalal Talabani, sent the legislation back to MPs for reworking after charging that the parliamentary vote violated the constitution because it was held in secret.
The draft faced strong opposition with major blocs in parliament -- mainly Kurds and some Shiite ministers -- storming out in protest and leaving only about 140 MPs to vote.
At the centre of the row is how power will be shared in the restive, oil-wealthy northern province of Kirkuk, that is claimed by both the Arabs and Kurds.
Kirkuk has been gripped by ethnic tension since the 2003 US-led invasion to remove Saddam Hussein, with Arab and Turkmen residents fearful they would be marginalised if the city were handed over to the Kurds.
Lawmakers are expected to meet again on Monday.
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