January 18, 2018 / 1:01 PM / 4 months ago

U.S. government opposes delaying Iraqi elections: U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The United States supports holding Iraqi parliamentary elections on May 12 as planned by Iraq’s government, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said on Thursday, criticizing calls to postpone the vote.

“Postponing the elections would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development,” the embassy said in a statement.

The statement was published as Iraqi lawmakers were debating whether to hold the vote as planned or postpone it in order to allow hundreds of thousands of displaced people to return home to cast their ballots.

The session will resume on Saturday, according to parliamentary Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, when MPs may vote on the election date.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is seeking re-election, is pushing for the vote to be held on May 12.

Abadi’s popularity among Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Arab community has risen after he successfully led a three-year fight against Islamic State militants, supported by a U.S.-led coalition.

Washington also showed understanding for Abadi’s move to dislodge Kurdish fighters from the oil rich northern region of Kirkuk in October, even though the Kurds are traditional allies of the United States.

“The United States is providing assistance that will help ensure that all Iraqi voices are heard and counted, including the approximately 2.6 million Iraqis who remain displaced from their homes in the liberated areas”, taken from Islamic State, the U.S. embassy statement said.

The role of prime minister is reserved for the Shi’ite Arabs under a power-sharing system set up after the 2003 U.S-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab.

The largely ceremonial office of president is reserved for a Kurdish member of parliament, while the speaker of parliament is drawn from among Sunni Arab MPs.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Catherine Evans

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