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Middle East
Iraq parliament debates poll law
Sunni leaders fear proposed legislation will marginalise their communities.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2009 12:14 GMT
Al-Hashemi's veto of the law has delayed the polls originally scheduled for January 16 [EPA]

Iraq's parliament is debating the country's election law, amid fears Tariq al-Hashemi, the vice-president, may use his veto in an attempt to block the proposed legislation.

Parliamentarians met on Sunday, the deadline for al-Hashemi to use his veto.

The vice-president vetoed an earlier draft election law, agreed by parliament last month, saying it failed to adequately represent Iraqis living abroad, most of whom, like al-Hasehmi, are Sunnis.

Even if al-Hashemi uses his veto for a second time, he may only delay the legislation as parliament can overturn it with a 60 per cent majority vote.

Veto threat

An alliance of Shia and Kurdish parliamentarians could theoretically pass that threshold with around 30 votes to spare in the 275-seat assembly.

in depth

  Video: Iraq tribes threaten to boycott vote
  Inside Iraq: Election law set back for Iraq
  Video: Interview with Tariq al-Hashemi
  Inside Story: Iraq's election law

But the debate over representation has lead to fears of further sectarian division in Iraq ahead of the polls.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from northern Iraq, said that Sunni politicians felt an agreement was unlikely to be reached, because it would require the Kurds to give up some of their seats in parliament.

"A Sunni MP said there's a lack of political will on the parts of the Kurds, who hold the key to a compromise.

"They were given extra seats at the expense of Sunni governorates [when the proposed law was last amended] ... Kurds will have to give up those seats for a compromise to be reached."

Tribal elders in Tikrit, a mainly Sunni town about 140km northwest of Baghdad, have threatened to call for a boycott of the elections.
 
"That would mean yet again another community will be marginalised out of the political process. The consequences could be a security vacuum," our correspondent warned. 

'No population data'

Ala al-Talabani, a Kurdish member of parliament, told Al Jazeera that poor population statistics in Iraq was complicating the allotment of seats in parliament. 

Iraqi legislation

 Iraq's constitution stipulates that laws passed by the parliament must be approved unanimously by the presidential council.

The council currently consists of Jalal al-Talbani, the president, Tariq al-Hashimi, vice-president, and Adil Abd al-Mahdi, also a vice-president.

 If a presidential council member vetoes a law, it must go back to parliament for a vote on whether to accept the veto and change the law accordingly, or refuse the veto and send back the law unaltered to the council.

 The presidential council has the right to veto each law twice.

 If the council vetoes a law on two occasions, the law is kicked back to the parliament again. In this case, the law must be approved by 60 per cent of the parliament's members - otherwise the parliament must change the law to win the approval of the presidential council. 

She said high growth was recorded in some major cities while statistics did not show any growth at all in cities like Sulaimaniya in the Kurdish region.

"The problem is that in Iraq, we don't have fixed data of the population in each province ... That's why the discussion is about how the electoral commission is going to calculate the seats for each province."

Under Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi leader who was toppled in a US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq's minority Sunnis held power.

But following the invasion, the majority Shia took command of the nation's political leadership and security forces.

The political back-and-forth has also held up the planning for Iraq's elections, scheduled for January 16.

In principle, Iraq's constitution requires that parliamentary elections be held by the end of January, but many analysts say that is unlikely to happen.

The United Nations has proposed February 27 as the most "feasible" date for the poll.

'Hard line'

Al-Hashemi has warned that he may again use his veto, but said on Saturday he thought progress was being made towards an agreement.

"There are optimistic signs and I hope the remaining simple points of dispute will be resolved by the political groups," he said on state-run al-Iraqiya television.

Al-Hashemi also added a warning to some of the Shia blocs that have objected to the possible concessions to Sunnis.

"I hope the hard line adopted by some people in parliament will not compel me to use the veto again," he said, without naming specific legislators.

Parliament met on Saturday to vote on a new electoral law, but not enough legislators turned up for the meeting to be quorate and a decision was delayed until Sunday.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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