[JURIST] The Iraqi Presidency Council on Friday signed a provincial elections bill [JURIST news archive] allowing for voting in most of the country early next year. The final version did not include a controversial clause that Staffan de Mistura [appointment release], the UN special representative to Iraq, had urged Iraqi lawmakers to reintroduce [UN News Centre and BBC News reports]. That clause, which would guarantee legislative seats to religious minorities, was removed from the bill because of uncertainty on how to determine the number of seats to be set aside for the groups. De Mistura expressed disappointment at the removal, saying the clause had been a "strong indication Iraq is a nation ready to protect the political rights of minorities as founded in the Constitution." Earlier this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] also called [JURIST report] for the inclusion of the representation guarantee, saying it would help assuage minority fears of oppression. The bill can be amended before elections are held. AFP has more.
The provincial elections bill was passed [JURIST report] by the Iraqi Parliament [official website, in Arabic] last week. The parliament debated the elections bill for months, with a main point of disagreement being over provisions relating to the ethnically-diverse Kirkuk [GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder] region in the north of the country. After several failures [JURIST report], the parliament accepted a UN-proposed compromise [White House press release] allowing elections in the rest of the country to proceed, as former opponents of the plan said they were confident an agreement could be reached to carry out elections in Kirkuk. Earlier this month, Iraqi lawmakers agreed to temporarily divide control of Kirkuk [JURIST report] among the city's ethnic groups until a permanent governing plan is established.