By vetoing the legislation on provincial elections, the Iraqi president sent it back to lawmakers for revisions, while political leaders continued to try to strike a deal allowing the vote to be held this year as planned.
Though provincial elections are seen as central to political progress in the country, their timing was thrown into doubt on Tuesday, when the parliamentary vote on the legislation has been boycotted by Kurdish lawmakers, insisting that it be rewritten.
Jalal Talabani, the president, who is Kurd, and at least one of his vice presidents vetoed the legislation on Wednesday, said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish politician.
Earlier in the day, the president’s office had issued a statement promising a veto, arguing that in its current form, the legislation would deepen “the sectarian and national isolation and expand the circle of extremism”.
The legislation has been opposed by Iraqi Kurds because they do not accept an article on the multiethnic northern city of Kirkuk.
Lawmakers said, in interviews on Wednesday, that they were under pressure to come up with a compromise, and that they expected an agreement to be reached by the country’s top political leaders before the summer recess begins on August 1.
Massoud Barzani, the powerful leader of the Kurdish region, announced he would come to Baghdad to help broker a deal, which show the high stakes of the talks.
“Everyone wants to solve this crisis as soon as possible”, said Mohammed Amin, a Sunni Arab politician who helped draft the legislation.
Kurkik is made up of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens, and located in the northern oil fields. The Kurds believe that the town should be part of the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq but Arabs and Turkmens disagree, saying power should be evenly divided.
Kurds and their opponents had already agreed on several basic points, such as postponing the election in Kirkuk, said Mr Amin.
But Mr Othman said that the Arabs and Turkmens were still insisting on dividing Kirkuk into four ethnic districts, which the Kurds strongly oppose.
“They ask you to make an election law but they don’t help you” he said. “Without the help of a broker, I don’t think the parties themselves will reach a solution.”
On some points, the Kurds appeared flexible, said Nada al-Sudani, the deputy chairman of the committee that drafted the legislation, adding that it was likely that before the summer recess, the Parliament would pass revised legislation.
Previously scheduled for October, the elections have already been pushed back to December, because of delays in reaching a compromise on the legislation, which sets up rules for the vote.