Iraqi Christians protest new election law

amirisefat200810030033368281.jpgHalf of Iraq’s Christian population has fled the country due to the US invasion of Iraq.
More than 10,000 Iraqi Christians have demonstrated in northern Dahuk province, in opposition to a new election law they deem unjust.

The protestors demanded restoration of a clause in the new election law that would guarantee their representation in provincial councils.

Iraq’s parliament on September 24 approved a long-delayed provincial elections law to allow provincial elections to go ahead, but lawmakers scrapped a key clause, known as Article 50, that would have guaranteed seats for Christians and other minorities.

Jamal Zeno, the chief of the Chaldo-Assyrian Popular Council, told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency that they would intensify their efforts to restore Article 50.

Parliament’s decision to remove Article 50, which specifies a quota for minorities in provincial councils, has sparked a heated reaction from several political blocs representing the country’s Christians and other minorities.

While the new law sets a fixed quota of 25% for women, it snubs other Iraqi minorities such as Christians and Yazidis.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, last Sunday, also expressed his concerns about the removal of the disputed article and called on parliament and the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to address the concerns, feelings of injustice and the sense of exclusion felt by some segments of Iraqi society.

The new law also bans parties from campaigning in mosques and using religious figures to get votes.

Meanwhile United Nations special representative to Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, on Thursday criticized the country’s MPs for passing voting legislation that fails to represent the nation’s minority communities.

The UN envoy said he was worried that the removal of Article 50 that was previously included in other bill drafts could prove a blow to Iraq’s fledgling democracy.

Iraq with a population of an estimated 29m has around 400,000 Christians, which is half the number of Christians living in Iraq before the US invasion of the country in 2003.