BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's parliament selected on Thursday the ninth and final member of the country's new election commission that is to be in charge of the upcoming provincial and general elections.
The 2013 provincial and the 2014 general vote are expected to shape Iraq's future following the withdrawal of U.S. troops last December. The balloting will likely come against the backdrop of intense political struggles among Iraq's diverse religious and ethnic groups.
Lawmaker Muqdad al-Shuraifi, a member of the new election commission, said legislators on Thursday chose Turkoman representative Kulshan Kamal as the body's ninth member.
Last week, parliament approved the other eight members but stalled on the ninth because various blocs could not agree on whether to choose a Christian or a Turkoman.
The Independent High Electoral Commission is considered one of Iraq's more powerful institutions. The previous commission found itself for months entangled in a heated political debate after the 2010 parliamentary elections.
A Sunni-backed bloc narrowly won the most seats in those elections. Although it was not enough to secure an overall majority, its strong showing was a surprise in the Shiite-dominated country.
Supporters of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeatedly demanded recounts and complained the vote was plagued with fraud. International observers called the vote and ballot count fair. After a torturous recount, also supervised by the IHEC, the original results were widely found to be accurate.
Al-Maliki eventually kept his job after managing to form a broader Shiite collation.
The previous panel also faced corruption charges against some of its members, including commission chief Faraj Al-Haidari.
Shiite lawmaker Ali al-Allaq said 7,800 people applied for jobs on the new commission and nine were selected from 60 finalists.
"Only the best were chosen," said al-Allaq, adding that U.N. officials supervised the selection process.
Along with the Turkoman Kamal, the new IHEC — which is drawn from Iraq's various ethnic and sectarian factions — has four Shiites, two Sunnis and two Kurds.
Kamal's selection drew complaints from the Christian minority, which criticized the fact that all nine commission members are Muslim.
"The Christians were very disappointed today," said Imad Youkhana, a Christian lawmaker. "The discrimination against us has become so clear by this unfair composition of the electoral board."