BAGHDAD — Iraq's upcoming general election will be delayed, a top MP warned, because an amended electoral law agreed on Monday is likely to be vetoed for a second time by the country's Sunni vice president.
The deal increases the number of parliamentary seats in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region compared with an earlier version of the bill, which Tareq al-Hashemi vetoed, but reduces the figure for Sunni areas.
"I want to tell all Iraqis inside and outside Iraq that the election will be soon, and it will be postponed for a few days for technical reasons," said Baha al-Araji, the head of parliament's legal committee.
"All Iraqis, inside and outside Iraq, will be able to vote in their provinces as if they were inside Iraq."
He added: "I must give you a very important notice: his excellency (Hashemi) will veto this again, but this will be considered his second veto."
If a second veto is used, lawmakers can overturn it by passing any election law with a 60 percent majority. An alliance of Shiite and Kurdish MPs would surpass that threshold with around 30 votes to spare in the 275-seat assembly.
The original text of the bill was passed on November 8 after numerous delays.
But it ran into problems last Wednesday when Hashemi used his veto to demand a greater say for minorities and Iraqis who fled the country after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein in the 2003 US-led invasion.
The Sunni community, which was dominant before Saddam's ouster led to a takeover by the nation's majority Shiites, puts the number of Iraqis abroad at around four million.
MPs on Monday opted to increase each province's seat allocation by 2.8 percent over the number allotted in the last general election in 2005.
As a result, Kurdish provinces will see increases in their number of seats compared with the number allotted in the bill which Hashemi vetoed, but Sunni provinces will have fewer seats.
Shiite provinces will also broadly have fewer seats but retain a substantial majority in parliament.
Sunni lawmakers came out against the new bill after the deal was announced, with Usama al-Nejaifi telling reporters that an article in the proposal was unconstitutional.
"This article contradicts the constitution and takes seats from the provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk and Salaheddin and gives them to (Kurdish) provinces in the north," he said.
"This is illegal. ... We will seek a veto of the law."
The country's three-member presidential council, composed of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Vice Presidents Hashemi and Adel Abdel Mehdi, a Shiite, has 15 days to veto the new text.
Only one of the trio needs to veto the bill for it to be sent back to parliament.
Iraq's electoral commission has warned that continued delays over the law threaten to leave too little time to complete preparations by the scheduled polling date, currently slated for the second half of January.
Parliament is in recess until December 8 because of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival, meaning there will probably be insufficient time to organise the polls for January even if MPs do approve a third version that day.
Under Iraq's constitution, the general election -- the second since Saddam was toppled -- must be held by January 31.
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