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Assyrian Parties in Talks With Iraqi Top Court to Amend Controversial Ruling
By Azhi Rasul
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Talks between Iraq's top court and the Christian minority parties have started in hopes of a new ruling that would amend its controversial verdict to abolish minority quota seats in the Kurdistan Region's parliament, with the minorities claiming the court's ruling has "legal issues."

A major ruling by Iraq's Federal Supreme Court on Wednesday labeled the 11 quota seats in the Kurdistan Region's parliament reserved for ethnic and religious minorities as "unconstitutional," effectively rejecting their legitimacy. The court made the ruling in accordance with the Kurdistan Parliament Election Law 1 of 1992.

The decision is significant for Iraq's Christian community as it rules that their candidates for the legislature can no longer contest within the designated quota, with Christian parties forced to field their candidates against better-funded, established Kurdish political parties.

Despite the court's "final and binding" ruling, Christian parties hopeful of overturning the decision claim it has "legal issues" and could be reviewed.

Yonadam Kanna, a veteran Assyrian politician and former secretary-general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, told Rudaw that they had presented documents that show the legality in a meeting with the head of the Federal Court.

"The documents show that the minority quota seats have been a part of the [1992 election] law, and he told us that he hadn't seen those documents," Kanna said, noting that the head of the court promised them to review the decision in accordance with the top court's bylaw.

Article 45 of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court's bylaw state that "the court may, when necessary and whenever the constitutional and public interest requires, amend a previous principle approved in one of its decisions, provided that this does not affect the stability of legal positions and acquired rights."

The lawsuit that led to the court's ruling was filed by two politicians from the PUK and a Christian party in Sulaimani against the Kurdistan Region's election law, passed in 1992 and last amended in 2013. It claimed that several articles of the election law were unconstitutional, including Article 36 which stipulates that 11 of the legislature's 111 seats are dedicated to minorities under a quota system. Per this law, Turkmens have five seats, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs have five, and Armenians have one.

In case the court does not amend its ruling, the next term of the Kurdistan Parliament will need to resort to reintroduce the minority quota seats, according to Sharmin Khidir Bahjat, head of the legal affairs directorate of the Region's parliament.

"When the new Kurdistan Region parliament is established, its first task will be to amend the election law in which it can allocate seats for the minority quota," she said.

The date of the Kurdistan Region's delayed parliamentary elections is yet to be determined. Last week, delegations from Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) met with Kurdish authorities. In the meeting, June was suggested as a date for the vote, Rudaw has learned.

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