[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] approved a new election law [press release, in Arabic] following last Wednesday's veto of a similar bill [JURIST report] by Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi [personal website, in Arabic]. Al-Hashemi indicated that he plans to veto the bill a second time [AFP report] because it has not adequately addressed his concerns, including 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 regime fell. The parliament may be able to overturn the second veto with a 60 percent majority if enough Shiite and Kurdish members approve the next bill. US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill [official website] remarked,
[S]ome slippage would be okay, but we don't want a lot of slippage, so I hope they'll look very carefully at this and I hope we can get moving...I think what is most important is we get these elections going and get on with this process.
The parliament is now entering a recess that will last until December 8.
The Iraqi Constitution [text, PDF] requires general elections to be held by January 31 and requires the new election law to be approved unanimously by the three members of the Presidency Council [official website, in Arabic] within 60 days of the election, previously scheduled for January 18 of next year. After al-Hashemi's first veto, the Independent High Election Commission [official website, in Arabic] suspended their preparations for the election. Further debate on the proposed election law along with the recess will almost certainly 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 be nearly a year ahead of schedule.