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Iraqi parliament trying to rig referendum on constitution?

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/04/international/middleeast/04iraq.html?th&emc=th Election Change Seems to Ensure Iraqis Charter By ROBERT F. WORTH Published:
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 4, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/04/international/middleeast/04iraq.html?th&emc=th

      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
      referendum.

      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
      to nil.

      "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
      reconsider it.

      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.
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      So the Sunnis keep voting with car bombs. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/04/international/middleeast/04iraq.html?th&emc=th Election Change Seems to Ensure
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 4, 2005
      • 0 Attachment
        So the Sunnis keep voting with car bombs.

        --- Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...> wrote:


        ---------------------------------
        http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/04/international/middleeast/04iraq.html?th&emc=th

        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
        referendum.

        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
        to nil.

        "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
        reconsider it.

        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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