BAGHDAD, Nov 03, 2009 (AFP) - The head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission warned that Thursday is the deadline for parliament to adopt an electoral law if January's general election is to be held on time.
"The electoral commission held talks with the United Nations on Tuesday to discuss the timetable," IHEC chief Faraj al-Haidari told the private Al-Sharqiya television channel.
"We must receive the law in the next two days, otherwise we will be unable to hold the election on the scheduled date of January 16," he said.
"There is material relating to the election, and international companies need time to print it. Fifteen thousand polling stations have to be made ready for the election, as do 50,000 personnel."
The electoral law is supposed to be in place 90 days before voting takes place. Constitutionally, the election must be held by January 31.
MPs are deadlocked over the status of the oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed region along the border with autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.
Kirkuk's majority Kurds have long demanded incorporation into the autonomous region, arousing fierce opposition from the province's Arabs and Turkmen.
"The next two days are crucial," Haidari said. "If the new electoral law is not adopted or if the amendments to the old law are not voted through, that means it will be impossible to hold the election on January 16."
Parliament has already held several sessions to discuss the bill, but without a vote.
The issue remains deadlocked despite intense lobbying from the United Nations and the United States, as well as pressure from Iraqi religious leaders and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
sk/srm/al © Copyright AFP 2009.