BAGHDAD Dec 19 Iraqi electoral officials
rejected on Friday efforts by provincial authorities to delay
local elections scheduled next month, which are expected to
alter the balance of provincial power.
"No one has the right to delay the provincial elections
scheduled for Jan. 31 except for the prime minister ... with the
approval of parliament," Osama al-Ani, deputy head of Iraq's
Electoral Commission, said the day after a governing council in
northern Iraq voted to delay the polls by six months.
The vote by the provincial council in Nineveh, where the
stubbornly violent city of Mosul is located, joins a request
from another restive province, Diyala, to delay polls that are
seen as a key test of Iraq's fledgling democracy.
Nineveh requested the delay to allow some 45,000 displaced
families to return to their homes, while Diyala complained that
conditions there are too unsettled.
But Ani was unequivocal: "We believe the elections will be
Jan. 31 and we are proceeding according to that schedule."
As violence drops in Iraq, the country's first elections in
three years will select new leaders in 14 of 18 provinces.
A vote was postponed indefinitely for Kirkuk, the oil-rich
province which has become the site of a showdown between Kurds,
who want to fold the city into their semi-autonomous Kurdistan
region, and Arabs and Turkmen.
Elections in Kurdistan's three provinces, meanwhile, are
expected sometime next year.
(Reporting by Waleed Ibrahim and Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by