Iraq may hold provincial elections in late December using old legislation if lawmakers cannot agree on a new electoral bill, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said on Wednesday.
If the elections are not held, the country's provincial councils will be "rendered dysfunctional", Salih told Reuters.
The polls were scheduled for Oct. 1, but the law has stalled in parliament over how to treat the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk, home to Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs.
Minority Sunni Arabs boycotted the last local polls in 2005 and feel marginalised in areas where they are numerically dominant.
"The presidency must announce the date of the elections. If there is no new legislation, existing law will be used to conduct the elections," said Salih.
"They're talking late December," he added.
The presidency council comprises the country's president and two vice presidents.
One of those officials, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, said last week the existing legislation could be used if needed.
The U.N. special representative to Iraq has warned that delays to the elections risked "delegitimising" current provincial councils.
The new law would change some voting procedures. It would also prevent any party that has a militia from competing.
One significant difference is that the new law uses an open list electoral system -- where voters can choose specific candidates. Under the old law, a closed list system was used, where they can only selected political parties.
The Electoral Commission has said the new law would need to be passed by mid-September to allow time for the polls to be held this year.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, in July rejected an earlier version of the new law passed by parliament which would have divided council seats equally between Kirkuk's ethnic groups. Kurd lawmakers had boycotted that hearing in protest.
Kurds believe they are numerically superior in Kirkuk, which they consider their ancient capital and want to fold into their largely autonomous northern region. Kirkuk's Arabs and Turkmen want the city to remain under central government authority.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Eylül 2008, 17:42