BAGHDAD, (AP) – Iraq’s Sunni Arab vice president on Wednesday vetoed part of a key election law, throwing national polls slated for January and a planned U.S. troop drawdown into question.
Tariq al-Hashemi announced he is sending part of the law back to parliament to be amended. He wants more seats allocated for Iraqis living abroad, most of whom are Sunni Arabs.
Al-Hashemi said all other provisions in the law are satisfactory, and stressed that only the article related to the number of seats for voters abroad will be open for discussion.
“My objection is not to the entire law, but only the first article in order to be fair to Iraqis living abroad,” al-Hashemi told reporters. “I hope that parliament will hold a vote soon on the suggested amendments so that elections can be carried out at their schedule date.”
As one of three members of Iraq’s presidential council, al-Hashemi holds veto power over legislation.
It was not immediately clear when parliament would take up the issue, or what impact it would have on the date of elections. No final date has been set yet for the vote, but they must be held before the end of January, as mandated in the constitution.
But a member of the parliamentary legal committee, Kurdish lawmaker Khalid Shwani, said the legal committee will study al-Hashemi’s suggested changes as soon as they receive them.
“If we received it today, then we will study the suggestions starting tomorrow and then we will put the article to a vote,” Shwani told The Associated Press.
“I can’t put a specific timetable on the vote because it will depend on how long the discussions take.”
Lawmakers haggled for weeks over the election legislation before finally passing it on Nov. 8, much to the relief of Iraqi political leaders and the United States.
Now, al-Hashemi’s move threatens to undermine Iraq’s fledgling democracy and derail Washington’s plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of August. U.S. commanders have tied the move to the national vote.
U.S. military officials have said they will begin to draw down forces about 60 days after the election, hoping for assurances by then that Iraq is on stable footing.
Under a plan by President Barack Obama, all U.S. combat personnel must be out of Iraq by the end of August 2010. The rest of the troops, such as trainers and support personnel, must leave by the end of 2011.