BAGHDAD, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The U.N. mission in Iraq said it welcomed a decision by the government in Baghdad to have provincial council elections next April.
The Iraqi government this week announced provincial council elections were scheduled for April 20. Martin Kobler, U.N. special envoy to Iraq, said the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq was committed to supporting Iraqi election groups in preparing for the contest.
"Setting the date will pave the way to move swiftly toward the planning for the organization and conduct of the governorate council elections," he said in a statement.
UNAMI has supported seven major elections in Iraq since 2004. Governorate, or provincial council, elections were last conducted in 2009 in 14 of the 18 Iraqi provinces. Elections for the three provinces that comprise the semiautonomous Kurdish region were conducted separately. Lingering issues over the status of Kirkuk remain unsettled.
More than 14,000 candidates competed for 440 seats in 2009. More than 20 percent of those candidates were women.
Kobler said women and young people are encouraged to play a role in the political process.