Religious minorities in Iraq

The Iraqi parliament approved legislation Monday that allocates six seats in provinces to small ethnic and religious communities in the upcoming provincial elections, but Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks asked for the law to be overturned on the grounds that they remained underrepresented.
A similar provision guaranteeing minority representation in provincial councils was taken out of the recent provincial elections law before it passed. This time, the parliament chose from three proposals and passed the one that gives religious or ethnic communities the least representation: one seat for Christians in each of three provinces — Baghdad, Nineveh and Basra — and one seat each for Yazidis, Sabeans and Shabaks in various provinces.

The story many outlets who make some time to cover Iraq are offering today is the issue of religious minority representation. The above is from Leila Fadel’s “Iraqi minorities ‘insulted’ by new provincial assemblies law” (McClatchy Newspapers) and it’s the place to start since it was among the earliest filed yesterday. Sam Dagher and Mohammed al-Obaidi’s “Iraq Attacks Include One on Oil Official” (New York Times) notes that we’re speaking of bill and not a law:

In passing legislation that could stoke further tensions between Iraq’s fractious ethnic and sectarian groups, Parliament voted to guarantee minorities significantly fewer seats on provincial councils than had been recommended by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.
The bill would give Christians a single seat on councils in Baghdad, Basra and Nineveh, instead of the three seats in Baghdad, three in Nineveh and one in Basra that were proposed by the United Nations mission.
The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who, like Christians, have been reeling from attacks and displacement since the start of the war in 2003, would get one seat in Nineveh, instead of the three proposed. Two other minorities, the Shabaks and the Sabeans, would get one seat apiece.
The new bill is supposed to be a compromise following the controversy that erupted in late September when Parliament passed the elections bill but deleted an article that had provided 13 seats in six provinces for Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and other minorities. The new bill would grant only six seats. The United Nations mission had proposed 12.

The article stripped out of the provincial election law was Article 50. Parliament removed it, supposedly due to the fact that a census was never done. Nothing was said by Parliament. Protests began after Parliament sent it on up the chain. At which point Nouri al-Maliki made some for-show noises that only demonstrated hos uninformed/ignorant he remains about the parliamentary process. President Jalal Talabani also objected to it but that didn’t prevent him from approving it as a law.

Tina Susman’s “Iraqi lawmakers OK provincial council quotas for minorities” (Los Angeles Times) offers perspective and ponders what could possibly happen next in the bill’s life:

But Christian lawmaker Younadam Kanna denounced the vote as an “insult” and said it showed the “fanaticism and racism” of Arabs fearful of Kurdish influence. He said Arabs had feared that Christians would ally themselves with the Kurds and sabotaged this possibility by blocking the larger quotas.
Kurdish lawmakers said they had opposed the bill because it did not give Christians more guaranteed seats. “The voting of today showed who is fighting the Christians and who is supporting them,” said Arif Tayfur, a Kurdish political leader and legislator.
The deal must be approved by the nation’s three-person presidency council, and Kanna said he would demand a veto. Kurds succeeded in putting plans for provincial elections on hold when President Jalal Talabani vetoed an election bill that had been passed over Kurdish objections. That forced a renegotiation of the law and led to the version passed in September and tweaked in Monday’s voting.
There was no indication that the Christians could force another veto, although their bitter objections raise the specter of heightened tensions in the north, which is at this point the country’s most violent region. The rest of Iraq has seen a sharp decline in bloodshed in recent months, but Monday’s attacks showed the lingering instability.

Related, France 24 offers a video report on the situation for Iraqi Christians in Baghdad by Lucas Menget and Guillaume Martin.

Turning to news in the US presidential race, Bob Lewis’ “McCain sues to force Va. to count military ballots” (AP) offers this:

Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign sued the Virginia election board Monday, claiming absentee ballots weren’t mailed on time to military members serving overseas.
The complaint asks the U.S. District Court in Richmond to order the state to count absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by Nov. 14. It contends that thousands of troops’ ballots — many of which would go to McCain — will not be counted.
The deadline for ballots to be received is 7 p.m. Election Day, which is Tuesday.

John McCain is the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Sarah Palin is his running mate.
Becky notes this from McCain – Palin ’08:

The Case for John McCain

The Maverick We Need Now: George Pataki Makes The Case For John McCain
By George Pataki
New York Daily News
November 3, 2008
NY Daily News

Today our country stands at a critical juncture. Our economy is in turmoil, we have thousands of our brave men and women fighting abroad and America’s confidence has been eroded.

In Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, we have two candidates with very different visions for the future of our nation.

To me the clear choice to guide us through the challenges we face is John McCain.

Over and over again, in times of crisis and on the issues that matter most to Americans, McCain has been there.

It’s no secret that our economy today is in trouble.

To recover from this economic crisis we are going to need the right policies. If Obama is elected the question isn’t if he is going to raise taxes – the question is how much he will raise taxes.

Obama believes in raising taxes so Washington has more of our money to “spread the wealth around.”

For John McCain, working hard, paying your own way and keeping your hard earned money is the right policy.

On the front page of today’s New York Times (bottom of the front page) is the news that Governor Palin was cleared in the firing scandal. William Yardley and Serge F. Kovaleski’s “Palin Proper in Firing of Official, Report Says” documents the Alaska Personnel Board’s findings.

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate, Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. Micah notes this from Team Nader: