Iraq and Gulf Analysis

No Second Veto: The Election Law Is Approved by Tariq al-Hashemi and the Iraqi Presidency

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 6 December 2009 23:46

In a bazaar-style compromise, the Iraqi parliament has kept the best parts of the amended elections law and thrown out the more dubious ones, thereby averting a second veto by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi.

The first veto of the election law by Hashemi caught most observers by surprise. The veto itself was perfectly logical, and, contrary to what the international mass media has written, not particularly sectarian in origin or outlook. It included several elements, but the most important ones focused on procedures for exiled voting (in the media this was misleadingly portrayed as something that catered for Sunnis exclusively). This demand, in turn, was actually addressed by parliament in a very constructive way, since the new procedures – exiled voters will vote according to their “home” governorates – restore the rights of the exiles and put them on more or less the same level as domestic Iraqis. But Hashemi’s big gamble was the possibility that parliament might use the opportunity to pick apart other aspects of the law that they had second thoughts about… Full story here.

13 Responses to “No Second Veto: The Election Law Is Approved by Tariq al-Hashemi and the Iraqi Presidency”

  1. Massaab said


    I’m wondering about two things. The first, did Hashemi veto a part of the law or the whole law? In other words, does he have the power to veto only a part of the law?
    The second, is it safe to say that Barazani and Talabani didnt voice their concerns earlier because they didnt care much for Sulaymaniyah since the Change list might sweep the polls there anyway?

    Thank you for your time,

  2. Reidar,
    This is a significant positive step, I wonder how it will pan out in the reality of the elections? do you foresee any loopholes in Karkuk? How can expats verify their home residence? will it take too long to put the election mechanism in practice?
    Ayad Allawi now calls for UN oversight over the elections Afghanistan style…Why bother? Without official mandate the UN has no teeth in Iraqi elections, and if it is UNAMI who’s doing the extra oversight then what will happen?

  3. John M said

    Thank you for a sensible and fair and brief explanation of a situation needlessly confused by the media.

  4. Rend Al - Rahim said

    I marvel at the detail of your information and analysis. Great work.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    All, thanks for the input & apologies for slow moderating. Browsing the latest news from Iraq, I find it striking that the parliamentary report of the decision does not mention the two compensatory seats specified for Kurdistan. Any ideas? I will try to look this up as soon as I can.

  6. Joel Wing said

    Massab the members of the Presidential Council can only veto an entire law. Hashemi tried to play it like it was a line-item veto and only the parts that he objected to should be revised but that’s not how the parliament works.

  7. Sam Parker said

    In the first allotment (2010-1), the 8 minority seats were included as a chunk of the compensatory quota in the chart issued by IHEC and reproduced here. As I understand it, in 2010-1 Ninewa had 31 seats in the regular allotment plus three additional minority seats for a total of 34. In the second and third allotments (2010-2 and 2010-3), it appears that the minority seats are included in the provincial allotment, backed up by the text of the amended law behind 2010-2 and presumably still operative for 2010-3 (as you mention).

    Thus, the chart should reflect a much bigger decrease for Ninewa between 2010-1 and 2010-2 in an apples-to-apples comparison, i.e. either 31 to 26 with the minorities excluded or 34 to 29 with the minorities included. If you assume that Sunnis get 2/3 of vote in Ninewa, this amounts to a loss of three Sunni seats between 2010-1 and 2010-2.

    More importantly, this also means that the Sunnis are still net losers in Ninewa between 2010-1 and 2010-3, i.e. 31 vs. 28 regularly allotted seats. This net difference of 3 means roughly 2 lost Sunni seats between 2010-1 and 2010-3. Add to this the fact that most of the minority quota seats are basically giveaways to the Kurdish parties, and the Kurds are looking better in the 2010-3 iteration than your chart implies.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Massaab, there is more on the “partial veto” in a previous post at
    Basically, the idea of a “partial veto” is freestyle interpretation of the constitution without any specific backing in the text itself.

    Faisal, I think Kirkuk is looking stranger and stranger. The “special provisions” adopted in the first iteration of the law are often misinterpreted. Basically, the solution in the end was to find out whether the 2009 quota of seats was unnaturally high when compared with 2005. But what is the point in doing that when 2005 is adopted as baseline for calculating the 2009 seats? That, after all, is the way the new distribution is construed (i.e. it still pretends to adhere to the formula of 2005 + 2.8% annually, plus a little bit of Iraqi magic). It should be stressed that what happened on Sunday was not lawmaking as such; rather the parliament issued a “decision” to interpret the previous iteration of the law in a certain way when it comes to seat distribution.

    Sam, that is an interesting point. However, with regard to the political colour of those seats, at least the Shabak one in Mosul is likely going to be fiercely anti-Kurd (Hunayn al-Qaddo) and to some extent I think the inclusion of the Christian demand for a single constituency nationwide is an attempt at addressing precisely concerns that the KRG would impose its own favourites in Dahuk and Arbil. If that happens (i.e. if the Christians succeed in electing their “own” candidates), then you could in theory end up subtracting two Kurdistan seats as well in the calculus. I am unsure about how the single constituency will work in practice when governorate sub-quotas have already been specified.

    I still find it somewhat odd that there is still no formally published report from the parliament which refers to the two compensatory seats for Kurdistan that were explicitly mentioned when the “qarar” was read out in parliament. There was confusion whether the two seats referred to the two Christian seats already included as minority quotas (hence, “Kurdistan seats” in a technical way) but that would contradict the second amendment which says the seats are to be taken from the governorate quotas.

  9. bb said

    It was interesting to see how the (vice) presidential veto worked to block the discrimination against the exiled Iraqis and that, as a result, their rights were restored? It is the second time during this protracted wrangling over the election law that the veto, or threat of it, has worked successfully to block attempts to discriminate thereby forcing a negotiated consensus outcome. It raises the question as to whether the Iraqis would be wise to maintain the tri partite presidency and veto powers for the next parliamentary cycle, bearing in mind that the ultimate power to resolve a veto rests with the COR on a 3/5th majority – ie it is not antidemocratic?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    On the other hand, if there was no veto, Iraq would have had an oil law by now!

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Further about the compensatory seats: It has emerged that the “decision” in fact involved a reversion of the arrangements for compensatory seats arrived at in the amended law: The 8 minority seats are indeed to be taken from the 15 compensatory seats, leaving only 7 “ordinary” compensatory seats.

    خُصص عدد من المقاعد بموجب المادة (أولاً/ 3) من مشروع التعديل محسوباً من المقاعد التعويضية المبينة في المادة (أولاً/ 4) من المشروع ليمنح لها وبحسب الأعداد الواردة في المادة (أولاً/ 3) منه

    So the governorates do not “lose” any seats to the minority quotas anymore. But when the Iraqi parliament construes this as an “interpretation” of the amendments (when it in fact annuls the provision related to minority seats as part of the governorate quotas) it really involves the stretching the imagination…

    There is still a lack of clarity with respect to the Kurdistan share. Does it simply refer to the two Christian seats previously specified for Dohuk and Arbil? The problem is that the Christian vote will be carried out in a nationwide, single electoral constituency.

  12. Sam Parker said

    Yeah, a bit of stretch. Article 3 of the amendment explicitly states that the minorities are drawn from the provincial allotments.

    3- تمنح المكونات ألتاليه حصة ( كوتا) تحتسب من المقاعد ألمخصصه لمحافظاتهم على أن لا يؤثر ذلك على نسبتهم في حالة مشاركتهم في القوائم الوطنية و كما يلي:
    1- المكون المسيحي خمسة مقاعد توزع على محافظات بغداد ونينوى وكركوك ودهوك وأربيل.
    2- المكون الأيزيدي مقعد واحد في محافظة نينوى.
    3- المكون الصابئي المندائي مقعد واحد في محافظة بغداد.
    4- المكون الشبكي مقعد واحد في محافظة نينوى.

    Then Article 4 explicitly states that the 5% will be entirely compensatory in the single-district sense:

    4- تخصص نسبة ( 5%) من المقاعد كمقاعد تعويضية توزع على القوائم بنسبة المقاعد التي حصلت عليها.

    Just to state the obvious, this kind of interpretation is good because 1) it results in an allocation much closer to 2010-1 and 2) the alternative to the “interpretation” approach would be passing a new amendment.

  13. bb said

    “On the other hand, if there was no veto, Iraq would have had an oil law by now!”

    Indeed! But it almost certainly would not have been seen as a consensus decision. To my mind, consensus is what has been holding all this together so far.

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