Iraqi MPs divided over calls to postpone elections

By Haydar Hadi

BAGHDAD (AA) – A parliamentary session wrapped up Thursday with Iraqi lawmakers seemingly unable to agree on whether or not to postpone parliamentary polls slated for May 12.

After the session, Parliamentary Speaker Salim al-Jabouri said 148 lawmakers had tabled a motion to postpone the election, going on to request that the assembly vote be conducted via secret ballot.

Although al-Jabouri refrained from saying which MPs had tabled the motion, analysts believe the request likely emanated from Sunni and Kurdish political groupings.

The Shia National Alliance, for its part, Iraq’s largest Shia parliamentary bloc, said after the session that it would oppose any proposal to postpone the polls.

While parliamentary debate is set to continue in this regard, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad issued a statement calling for the elections to be held on schedule.

“The U.S. government strongly supports holding Iraqi national elections in May 2018 in line with the Iraqi constitution,” the statement read.

“Postponing elections would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development, ” it added.

Vice President (and Former Prime Minister) Nouri al-Maliki has said that calls to postpone the polls lacked a legal basis and contradicted Iraq’s national charter.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that the elections would be held on May 12 as planned, going on to rule out any possibility of a delay.

Shia parliamentary groups generally want to see the polls held on schedule, while Sunni groups — citing Iraq’s large population of displaced persons — would like to see it postponed.