Iraq's top court rules against election delay
January 21, 2018 | 5:08 PM
by Reuters
An aerial view of central Baghdad and the Tigris river, May 24, 2014. Photo - REUTERS/Stringer

Baghdad: Iraq's Supreme Federal Court on Sunday ruled against calls by minority sect and Kurdish lawmakers to delay a parliamentary election, expected to be called for May, to allow hundreds of thousands of people displaced by war to return home.

Majority sect politicians, including Prime Minister Haider AlAbadi, argued delaying the election would be unconstitutional.

The election must be held "within the timeframe provided by the constitution," the court said in a statement.

Parliament is expected to meet on Monday to validate May 12 as the date for the ballot, as suggested by the government, or agree another date in May.

Abadi is seeking re-election, building on a surge in his popularity among Iraq's majority community after leading the three-year fight against IS militants, supported by a U.S.-led coalition.

"Postponing the elections would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development," the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said in a statement on Thursday.

The United States had shown understanding for Abadi's move in October to dislodge Kurdish fighters from the oil rich northern region of Kirkuk, even though the Kurds are traditional allies of Washington and played a key part in the war against IS militants.

Tens of thousands of Kurds were displaced as a result of the takeover of the ethnically mixed areas of Kirkuk and its surroundings by Iraqi forces supported by Iranian-backed paramilitary groups.

The United Nations estimates the total number of people who remain displaced in Iraq at 2.6 million, mostly members of the minority sect from areas previously controlled by IS.

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