So the Sunnis keep voting with car bombs.
--- Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...
Election Change Seems to Ensure Iraqis' Charter
By ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: October 4, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 3 - Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish
leaders quietly adopted new rules over the weekend
that will make it virtually impossible for the
constitution to fail in the coming national
The move prompted Sunni Arabs and a range of
independent political figures to complain that the
vote was being fixed.
Some Sunni leaders who have been organizing a campaign
to vote down the proposed constitution said they might
now boycott the referendum on Oct. 15. Other political
leaders also reacted angrily, saying the change would
seriously damage the vote's credibility.
Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only
if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than
two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots -
reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces.
The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in
Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the
bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that
fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in
the January elections, the chances that two-thirds
will both show up at the polls and vote against the
document in three provinces would appear to be close
"This is a mockery of democracy, a mockery of law,"
said Adnan al-Janabi, a secular Sunni representative
and a member of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's
party. "Many Sunnis have been telling me they didn't
believe in this democratic process, and now I believe
they are vindicated."
The rule change could prove a serious embarrassment to
American officials in Iraq, who have spent recent
weeks struggling to persuade Sunni Arabs to vote for
the constitution and even trying to broker last-minute
changes that would make it more palatable to them.
There was some confusion on Monday about the origin of
the change. One member of Iraq's electoral commission
said the commission had already made a similar ruling
last month, while another member denied that. But Ali
Dabagh, a moderate Shiite member of Parliament, said
there had been no public ruling until Sunday's vote.
Mr. Dabagh also said the United Nations had expressed
dissatisfaction on Monday with the rule change, and
that the National Assembly would meet Tuesday to
There were indications from knowledgeable diplomats
that the United States, too, was unhappy with the
development and hoped it would be modified.
Other Shiite members of the assembly defended their
action. They said that if only people who came to the
polls were counted in the referendum, insurgent
attacks could frighten away so many voters that the
constitution could be rejected on the basis of a
small, unrepresentative sample of voters.
"You should not violate the rights of the majority,"
Maryam Reyes, a member of the Shiite alliance that
controls a majority of seats in the assembly, said in
support of the measure.
Ms. Reyes said the assembly members had not changed
election law, but only clarified the meaning of the
word "voters" in the relevant passage. The legal
passage in question states: "The general referendum
will be successful and the draft constitution ratified
if a majority of voters in Iraq approve and if
two-thirds of voters in three or more governorates do
not reject it."
In their vote on Sunday, the Shiite and Kurdish
members interpreted the law as follows: the
constitution will pass if a majority of ballots are
cast for it; it will fail if two-thirds of registered
voters in three or more provinces vote against it. In
other words, the lawmakers designated two different
meanings for the word "voters" in one passage. "I
think it's a double standard, and it's unfair," said
Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish assembly member who, like
many other lawmakers, said he had not been present
during the vote and only learned of it afterward.
"When it's in your favor, you say 'voters.' When it's
not in your favor you say 'eligible voters.' "
In effect, the new interpretation makes not voting a
show of support for the constitution and runs against
the apparent intent of the law. The National Assembly
is empowered to change the transitional law - which
was written under the American occupation in 2003 -
but only with the approval of two-thirds of its
members and of the Presidency Council. Because they
regard their action as a mere clarification, the
lawmakers did not seek that kind of approval.
Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedi and Qais Mizher contributed
reporting for this article.
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