Iraqi parliament approves new election law

08:43, December 07, 2009      

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The Iraqi lawmakers unanimously agreed on Sunday on new version of the electoral law that would govern the country's parliamentary polls early next year.

The parliament held an extra-ordinary session late on Sunday night after a long day of haggling among the political blocs about the amendments needed to the electoral law in an attempt to avoid a second veto to the law by the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.

Earlier, Hashimi vetoed the electoral law, demanding more seats in the parliament for Iraqis living abroad, among whom most are Sunni Arab Muslims.

According to the approved version, the number of seats in the coming parliament will be 325 instead of the 275 in the current parliament. 310 of which will be allotted for the country's 18 provinces and the remaining 15 seats will go as eight seats reserved for the Iraqi minorities and seven for the blocs who garnered national support.

After the vote, Hashimi congratulated the Iraqi people for the "historical victory" saying he decided to withdraw his letter of veto which he said that he kept it since earlier in the day with the parliament speaker to be officially announced in case the lawmakers fail to reach a compromise over the electoral law.

"The victory is for all Iraqis. I am very happy. Therefore, I decided to withdraw the veto letter which I submitted at noon," Hashimi said in his address to the Iraqi people after the voting.

The national elections were scheduled for Jan. 16, but the delay of nearly a month by Hashimi's veto and political debates made it almost impossible to meet the date.

However, few days ago UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) said in a statement that it supports a new feasible election date to be on Feb. 27, 2010.

After the voting, Khalid al-Attia, the deputy speaker expressed his hope that the coming elections would be held on the same date proposed by UNAMI on Feb. 27.

The new version allotted 68 seats for Baghdad alone and a total of 43 seats for the three Kurdish province of Arbil Sulaimaniyah and Duhuk.

The Kurds earlier objected the distribution of the seats, saying they were under-represented as their allocations of seats had not changed above the 2005, while the Sunni and the Shiite provinces had increased.

Friyad Rawandozi, spokesman of the Kurdish parliamentary bloc told a local television of al-Sharqiya that "the Kurdish bloc agreed on the new version after being under pressures by the representatives of the U.S. embassy and the United Nations."

"We've got some guarantees from the White House," Rawandozi said, adding that the guarantees included solving problems between the Kurds and Baghdad government.

Rawandozi also confirmed that U.S. President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials made phone calls with the Kurdish regional President Masaud Barzani, stressing that the Kurds are waiting to an official statement from the White House about the guarantees.

The U.S. and Iraqi officials fear that the latest political crisis would delay the elections and then may affect the U.S. plans to withdraw its combat troops from Iraq before the end of August 2010.

Observers see that it is not clear yet whether the elections' delay would affect the American withdrawal from the country, but it is likely to complicate the plans of the U.S. President.

Obama has ordered the pullout of his combat troops by the end of August 2010, and the withdrawal of the remaining troops to be by the end of 2011.

Source: Xinhua
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