[JURIST] Iraqi Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi [personal website, in Arabic] on Wednesday announced his veto of the first article of the recently passed election law [JURIST report] at a press conference [transcript, in Arabic] in Baghdad. Hashemi said further amendments are necessary [AFP report] before the law will be acceptable, specifically calling for increased representation for Iraqis living abroad. An estimated 1.5 million Iraqis live outside the country, and many are thought to be Sunnis who fled after Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime fell. Hashemi is one of two Iraqi vice presidents who serve with the president on the Presidency Council [official website, in Arabic]. The Iraqi Constitution [text, PDF] requires that the Presidency Council unanimously approve legislation.
The constitution also requires that the election law be approved by the Presidency Council within 60 days of the election, which was scheduled for January 18 of next year. After Hashemi's announcement, the Independent High Election Commission [official website, in Arabic] suspended their preparations for the election. Further debate on the proposed law will likely delay the elections, which may affect the planned withdrawal of US military forces from Iraq. The elections may also include a referendum on the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF], which allows US troops to remain in the country until the end of 2011. A draft bill requiring the referendum was approved by the Iraqi cabinet [JURIST report] in August. If the SOFA were rejected by Iraqi voters, US troops would have only one year to withdraw, which would result in a January 2011 withdrawal - nearly a year ahead of schedule.