Leading Iraqi Parties Call for Election Delay

By REUTERS

New York Times

November 26, 2004

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Leading Iraqi political parties including the group led by former presidential candidate Adnan Pachachi and the two main Kurdish parties signed a petition on Friday calling for the planned Jan. 30 elections to be delayed.

After a meeting at Pachachi's house in Baghdad, attended by at least three cabinet ministers, 15 parties and political groups signed a petition saying the polls should be postponed for up to six months.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the main Kurdish parties in northern Iraq, both signed the document.

A representative of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party attended the meeting but did not sign the petition that was distributed at the end.

Influential Sunni Arab parties in Iraq have been pressing for a delay in the polls, saying that violence in Sunni areas makes it impossible to hold them in January. Many have threatened to boycott the election if it goes ahead on time.

But most Shi'ites, who make up around 60 percent of Iraq's population but were oppressed and marginalised under Saddam, are eager for early elections to cement their increased political power.

Iraq's interim constitution says elections must be held by the end of January to choose a parliament that will select a new cabinet and oversee the writing of a permanent constitution.

Pachachi's backing for an election delay is significant -- the Sunni politician is seen as an Iraqi elder statesman. He was the preferred choice of the United Nations for the Iraqi presidency, but the post went instead to Ghazi al-Yawar.