BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s presidential council Saturday signed off on legislation giving Christians and other religious minorities fewer guaranteed seats on provincial councils than the U.N. and some political groups had recommended.
The council, which includes President Jalal Talabani and the two vice presidents, said in a statement that it wished parliament had approved the U.N. proposal, which would have given the minorities a total of a dozen of the 440 seats on ruling councils in Iraq’s 18 provinces.
Instead, parliament last Monday gave minorities a total of six seats distributed among three provinces.
Christians will receive one seat each on the councils in Baghdad, Ninevah and Basra. Yazidis and Shabaks will get one each in Ninevah, while Sabeans will receive one in Baghdad.
The U.N. had recommended the Christians receive three seats in Baghdad and Ninevah and one in Basra. The proposal also called for the Yazidis to get three seats in Ninevah.
Christian parliament member Younadem Kana called Monday’s decision an “insult to the communities rather than being fair to them.”
In September, parliament approved a new law mandating elections for ruling provincial councils in most of Iraq’s 18 provinces — the first such ballot since January 2005. But the law removed a system that reserved a few seats for Christians and other religious minorities.
Lawmakers cited a lack of census data to determine what the quotas should be. Thousands of Christians have fled the country since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the rise of Islamic extremist groups.
But many Christians saw the parliament’s move as an effort to marginalize their community and demanded supplemental legislation restoring their seats.