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Iraq Constitutional Court Overturns Electoral Law Veto


Iraqi Parliament speaker Iyad al-Samaraie gestures as he speaks during a Parliament session dealing with the electoral law, 19 Nov 2009, in Baghdad

Iraqi Parliament speaker Iyad al-Samaraie gestures as he speaks during a Parliament session dealing with the electoral law, 19 Nov 2009, in Baghdad

The Constitutional Court has overturned a veto of the country's electoral law by Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi who wants parliament to allocate more seats to minorities and to Iraqis living abroad, which include a large number of Sunnis

Iraq's constitutional court has overturned a veto of the country's electoral law by Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, calling it "unconstitutional," in just the latest twist to the murky saga of parliamentary elections, originally set for January.

Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi exercised the veto Wednesday. He wants parliament to allocate more seats to minorities and to Iraqis living abroad, which include a large number of Sunnis.

Such a revision would oblige parliament to amend the country's recently-passed electoral law, provoking more bitter debate, and possibly delaying elections.

The Shi'ite head of the Iraqi parliament's legal committee, Baha al-Araji, insisted the constitutional court's ruling is valid and the vice president's veto was out of line.

He says the court considered many issues, including article 49 of the constitution, which stipulates that parliament has one representative for every 100,000 people, all across Iraq, representing all segments of the population. Therefore, he argues, the court ruled the constitution does not differentiate between Iraqis living inside and those living outside Iraq, thus rejecting Vice President Hashimi's argument.

Meanwhile, Iraqi parliament leader Iyad al-Samaraie indicated that after discussing the crisis with opposing factions, a decision was made to have legislators approve or disapprove the veto by Vice President Hashimi.

He says he has asked the different political factions to see if it is not possible to work out some sort of solution (to the crisis). He notes that there is no new bill on the table, so we decided to vote either to approve or not to approve the veto [by Vice President Hashimi]. For technical reasons, he adds, the vote will take place, Saturday.

Samaraie warns that it is advisable for Iraq to hold elections on time in January, so as to avoid a "constitutional vacuum," but that a delay of elections would "not necessarily provoke a security vacuum.

Iraq's electoral commission member Qassem al-Aboudi said Wednesday the veto had forced his body to freeze all operations.

U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, also indicated that a postponement of January elections "could delay the planned U.S. draw down" of combat forces, due to begin 60 days after the elections.

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