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Iraq facing delay in Jan. elections

Election law veto hampers process

By Christopher Torchia
Associated Press / November 25, 2009

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BAGHDAD - An Iraqi vice president signaled yesterday that he would again veto an election law in a dispute that a senior election official said was certain to delay a national vote scheduled for January.

Iraq’s constitution says the balloting must happen in January, and a delay will deepen uncertainty in a nation struggling to recover from years of war. Few predict a return to the intense violence that shattered Iraq, but profound mistrust among factions has made it hard for its democratic institutions to flourish.

“It is impossible to hold the elections in January from the legal and logistical point of view,’’ said Qassim al-Aboudi, an Independent High Electoral Commission senior official. “We are going to wait for the result of the dispute before setting another date.’’

Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, had vetoed the law because he wanted more seats for Iraqis abroad, most of whom are Sunnis who fled sectarian bloodshed after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s Parliament amended the law Monday with the backing of Shiite and Kurdish legislators, but lawmakers from the Sunni Arab minority skipped the vote, saying the Kurds stood to gain seats at their expense.

“What happened represents a dangerous precedent that will negatively effect the whole political process,’’ Hashemi’s office said in a statement. “And those who were behind this unfair and unconstitutional amendment will be held responsible for the consequences.’’

It said Hashemi “will deal with the new law as he did with the previous one to protect the national interest and bolster democracy.’’

Hashemi’s spokesman, Abdul-Ilah Khazim, said the vice president was likely to veto the law but declined to confirm that he would. Hashemi and the two other members of the presidential council have 10 days to use their individual veto power.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said in a statement that the election guidelines met the aspirations of all Iraqis, “regardless of their religion, sect, or ethnicity,’’ and he appealed to Hashemi to accept the amended law.

The Parliament can override a second veto with a three-fifths majority of all 275 lawmakers.