Kurdish political leaders block vote on Iraqi provincial election plan

Iraq's Kurdish leaders blocked a vote on the country's proposed provincial election law when they walked out of parliament, leaving the legislature without a quorum. The dispute centers on Kurdish demands for a referendum in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on whether it should become part of the Kurds' semiautonomous region in northern Iraq. The Kurdish snub on Tuesday left only 133 lawmakers in the 275-seat legislature. Parliament is scheduled to reconvene Thursday, but it is unclear whether the Kurds will clear the way for the provincial elections planned for Oct. 1. A prolonged stalemate in parliament could force a delay in the election date and further complicate attempts to reach accords on sharing political clout and oil revenue among the nation's main groups: Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. The provincial election plan would hand more powers to regions and lessen the oversight from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Kurdish lawmakers oppose a plan in the proposed law that would divide electoral spoils in Kirkuk among the ethnic groups there, with an even split among Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen and a small percentage to Christians. Fuad Massoum, head of the Kurdish bloc in parliament, said his group was not consulted about the plan and that more talks are needed.