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Iraqi parliament fails to reach deal on election law

A show of hands takes place during the first session of the Kurdish parliament in Arbil.
A show of hands takes place during the first session of the Kurdish parliament in Arbil.
  • New election law will ensure that national elections take place January 16
  • Biggest roadblock is how balloting should unfold in Kirkuk, where Kurds stake claim to land
  • Kurds regard Kirkuk as part of Kurdistan; Arabs and Turkmen also lay claim to it

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi parliament members adjourned on Saturday without reaching an accord on a controversial new elections law, and the lawmakers could make another try to forge and pass legislation tomorrow.

Abdul Bari al-Zebari and Mahmoud Othman, Kurdish members of the Council of Representatives, told CNN that the session is adjourned until Sunday because lawmakers didn't forge an agreement.

Passage of the law on Sunday is expected to ensure that national elections would be held on January 16.

Al-Zebari said several Sunni Arab parliament members boycotted the Saturday session and doubts there will be a Sunday vote. Othman told CNN that lawmakers couldn't reach an accord over the issue of Kirkuk and said some Sunni Arab and Turkmen members left the session.

But the biggest roadblock to a new election law is the question of how balloting should unfold in the ethnically diverse, oil-rich province of Kirkuk, where Kurds displaced during Saddam Hussein's rule have returned to claim their land.

The power struggle among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen has been a political hot potato.

Kurds have long regarded Kirkuk -- the province and the city of the same name -- as an integral part of Kurdistan, and many want it to be part of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Arabs and Turkmen also lay claim to the city and province, and all the groups want their voices and votes to be adequately represented in the political system.

Disgruntled Arab and Turkmen residents say many more Kurds have moved into Kirkuk than were displaced, and that allowing them to vote would create an unfair advantage. Arabs and Turkmen want special measures to adjust for the increased numbers because they believe many of the Kurdish immigrants are there illegally. The Kurds insist there should be no special voting procedures and reject a United Nations' proposal that singles out Kirkuk for special treatment.

The disagreements among the groups spurred the postponement of provincial elections in Kirkuk last January because officials there could not agree on how to apportion seats among the ethnic groups.