Iraq’s parliament on Sept. 24 approved a long-delayed law to allow provincial elections to go ahead, but lawmakers scrapped a key clause that would have guaranteed seats for Christians and other minorities.
Staffan de Mistura said he was worried that the removal of Article 50 that was previously included in other bill drafts could prove a blow to Iraq’s fledgling democracy.
"I was surprised and disappointed that Article 50 was not included in the provincial elections law," de Mistura said in a statement.
"Article 50 has the backing of minority groups, political blocs and UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) and should now be reinstated into the legislation as soon as possible so minorities can participate in the upcoming elections."
He urged the clause be inserted in the law by Oct.15.
Iraq’s parliament has set a January 31 deadline for elections in 14 provinces, excluding the three Kurdish provinces and the disputed oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
Leaders of Iraq’s Christian community claim the law does not provide for their representation in the councils that would be formed after the vote.
The exclusion of the article sparked protests on Sunday by Christians in the northern city of Mosul against the law, saying the legislation failed to represent the interests of the minority community.
Iraq has around 400,000 Christians, half the number of before U.S.-led forces invaded in 2003. The country also has other minority sects such as Yazidis in the northern regions.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has urged the election commission to ensure that the rights of minority communities are protected in the law, while lawmakers have said that they will return to the issue at a later date.