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WikiLeaks: 2008-10-01: 08BAGHDAD3160: Next Steps for Minorities in Provincial Elections

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD3160: October 01, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 07:38 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD3160 2008-10-01 07:52 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #3160/01 2750752
R 010752Z OCT 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003160 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2018 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Robert Ford for Reasons 1.4 
 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary:  The United Nations Assistance Mission for 
Iraq (UNAMI) has agreed to assist parliament with resolving 
the issue of minority representation for the upcoming 
provincial council elections.  UNAMI is hoping that this can 
be achieved through a political agreement and an election 
commission implementation regulation rather than an amendment 
to the recently passed elections law, which could delay 
provincial elections.  Provisions for ensuring minority 
representation -- most likely through provincial seat 
set-asides -- need to be established before the candidate 
registration and ballot design processes begin.  These 
provisions need to be decided by mid-October in order to 
conduct elections by January 31, 2009. Christian minority 
leaders admit that their own disunity contributed to the 
deletion of the article in the draft law that had reserved 
seats for minorities in the provincial councils. There have 
been peaceful demonstrations by Christians in Mosul and 
Baghdad calling for its reinstatement.  End Summary. 
2.  (C) On September 24, the Council of Representatives 
(CoR), over the objections of the Christian and other 
minority Members, passed the provincial council election law 
without Article 50, which mandated specific numbers of seats 
for minorities on the Baghdad, Ninewa, Basrah, and Kirkuk 
provincial councils.  In response to the subsequent minority 
outcry, CoR Speaker Mashadani tasked the Independent High 
Electoral Commission (IHEC) with developing an 
"administrative solution" to address minority concerns. 
UNAMI, as an advisor to the IHEC, has agreed to review the 
issue and make recommendations. 
3.  (C)  UNAMI is now determining the appropriate mechanism 
to address the minority issue.  UNAMI Electoral Affairs 
Officer Richard Gee told PolOffs September 28 that he hoped 
the issue could be resolved through a political agreement 
that would allow IHEC to codify minority representation 
through implementing electoral regulations as opposed to an 
amendment to the elections law.  (Note:  There is precedence 
for this:  there were no provisions for reserved seats for 
minorities in the CPA election law used for the January 2005 
provincial council elections , but the IECI, precursor to the 
IHEC, used implementing regulations to set aside minority CoR 
seats.  End Note.)  Modalities for minority representation 
need to be agreed upon before mid-October in order to begin 
candidate registration.  Any delay in that process could 
jeopardize the holding of elections by January 31, 2009.  If 
the law needs to be amended, the amendment will need to go 
through the standard procedure of three readings before it 
comes to a final vote.  This could significantly delay 
election preparations, which are already on an extremely 
tight timeline to meet the January 31 deadline set in the 
law.  UNAMI's chief electoral advisor told us that UNAMI 
believes the Presidency Council could reinstate Article 50 if 
there is agreement to do so from the CoR bloc leaders. 
(Comment:  We pointed out that, under the Iraqi constitution, 
the Presidency Council does not have this power.  The advisor 
rejoined that "this is Iraq -- anything is possible."  End 
4.  (C)  Gee said UNAMI will use the seat allocation formula 
from the excluded Article 50 as a starting point.  After 
reviewing the minorities report recently issued by the 
Ministry of Human Rights and other data, UNAMI will submit 
its recommendation to CoR Speaker Mashadani.  Gee believes 
this process should be concluded in the next week.  He also 
shared UNAMI's theory on why Article 50 was dropped from the 
final version of the bill:  the original article, included in 
the bill at the last minute on July 22, was used to obtain 
Christian support of the Turkomen/Sunni Arab version of 
Article 24 on Kirkuk.  Once Article 24 was agreed upon, there 
was no need to retain Article 50 -- without which there would 
be more provincial council seats available for the political 
party blocs. 
5.  (C)  By contrast, Ablahad Afram Sawa, Chaldean Democratic 
Union Party CoR member (Kurdish Alliance) claimed to PolOff 
on September 26 that the exclusion of Article 50 had been 
planned well in advance; he had known about it five days 
before the vote and had fought the exclusion.  Sawa claimed 
that Shia coalition leaders wanted Article 50 removed from 
the July 22 election law draft, but were too embarrassed to 
say so.  Sawa also faulted some minorities for their own 
disorganization and disunity, which he said contributed to 
the article being excluded.  He believes Mashadani's plan to 
write an appendix to the law is futile since the majority of 
CoR members voted to remove Article 50.  He said he has 
called Chaldean bishops in California and Michigan to ask the 
USG to pressure the GOI over this issue. Christians in Mosul 
and Baghdad have already held peaceful demonstrations calling 
for the reinstatement of 
BAGHDAD 00003160  002 OF 002 
Article 50. 
6.  (C)  In a separate conversation, Christian journalist and 
ADM member William Warda said on September 28 that the 
Article 50 deletion was the result of politicians focusing 
solely on the Kirkuk issue and forgetting about minorities. 
He believed establishing minority quotas would be at the 
expense of the political blocs, which now include some 
minority members.  He echoed Sawa's belief that the 
minorities themselves were also at fault for not unifying 
behind Article 50 inclusion.  He believed that Sawa should 
have worked the issue more publicly in both the CoR and 
media.  According to Warda, Iraqi's "sectarian mentality" 
makes the imposition of quotas necessary if minorities are 
going to be able to represent themselves. 
7.  (C)  Comment:  Although Gee expressed a sense of urgency 
in resolving this matter, he did not appear concerned that 
the issue would derail or inordinately delay the provincial 
elections.  President Talabani's political advisor Jallal 
al-Mashta told us that the Christians have been lobbying hard 
to get the president to veto the law.  Mashta said he had 
advised Talabani that a consensus on Article 24 was more 
important and there would be other ways to rectify the 
"oversight" on Article 50.  He is advising Talabani against 
vetoing the law.  PM Maliki sent a message to parliamentary 
leaders September 28 urging them and IHEC to find a solution 
to the minorities issue.  In addition, ADM head Yacob Kanna 
told us that SRSG Staffan de Mistura has requested a meeting 
for October 1.  These indications of determination to solve 
the minorities issue are a positive sign that a political 
agreement can be reached that would allow the minorities 
representation issue, and the provincial elections, to move 
forward.  However, the fact that the election law was passed 
without Article 50 in the first place tempers our optimism. 
End Comment. 


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