Iraq's National Assembly voted on Wednesday to reverse last-minute changes it had made to rules for next week's referendum on a new constitution following criticism by the United Nations and a boycott threat by the Sunni minority.
After a short debate and with only about half of its 275 members present, the assembly voted 119-28 to restore the original voting rules for the Oct. 15 referendum.
Sunni Arabs are campaigning to defeat the constitution at the polls, but U.S. and U.N. officials want them to be part of the process. They beleive that restoring the original rules will avert a Sunni boycott of the referendum. "The government is completely keen to make the constitutional process legitimate and of high credibility and we are concerned about the success of this process rather than the results of the referendum," government spokesman Laith Kubba said after the vote, according to the AP.
A UN official hailed the parliament for reversing the decision, noting he believed Sunnis will now participate in the referendum.
The rules now mean that Sunnis can veto the constitution by getting a two-thirds "no" vote in three provinces, even if the charter wins majority approval nationwide.