Elections mixed for Iraqi Christians

MOSUL, Iraq, Feb. 2 (UPI) — The fate of the Christian minority in Iraq is uncertain in the wake of provincial elections and historic periods of calm in the country, observers say.
Due in part to a quota system for religious minorities, Christians should win at least some of the provincial council seats from the Saturday election.

Church leaders and others, however, say those results may be insufficient to give legal and physical protection to the Christian population in Iraq, the conservative Christian Worthy News service reported.

Christians are situated predominately in the northern province of Ninawa, where they remain in the middle of conflicts between Arabs and Kurds over control of the region, notably the city of Mosul, the country’s third largest.

A majority of the Christian population were displaced because of targeted killings in 2008, though violence in Iraq in January was at its lowest since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Early polling results suggest parties backed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took a significant number of seats in the provincial council elections, suggesting a shift away from parties backed by the religious elite.

Kurds, meanwhile, suffered losses as Sunnis returned to the polls following a 2005 boycott. These developments, the report says, suggest the outlook for the Christian community may be somewhat better for 2009.