Mazen Ghazi / Islam Online – 2005-10-04 08:57:12
BAGHDAD (October 4, 2005) — Iraqi Sunni leaders and politicians hit out Tuesday, October 4, at what they called a “brazen forgery” after the Shiite-Kurdish dominated parliament amended the interim law to make it far simpler for the draft constitution to pass than for it to be defeated by Sunni opponents in the October 15 referendum.
“This is forgery of the political will of the Iraqi people in such a critical juncture in their history,” Iyad Al-Samarrai, a leading member of the Sunni Islamic Party, told IslamOnline.net. He lambasted what he called “double-standards” by the Shiites and the Kurds, who dominate almost three quarters of parliament, in explaining the articles of the interim law.
“The amendment means that the draft constitution can be passed by a simple majority of 51 percent of the voters,” he said, noting that the Shiites and Kurds were playing with words when they use “voters” and “registered voters.”
The change specifies that the text can only be rejected by two-thirds of “registered voters,” as opposed to the prior version which said two-thirds of “voters” in any three provinces could vote down the document.
According to Article 61C of the Transitional Administrative Law, “The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.” Sunni Arabs form a majority in Al-Anbar, Nineveh and Salahudin provinces.
The text adopted by parliament on Sunday, October 2, reads: “The word ‘voter’ in the first part of Article 61C means registered voters who have cast a ballot, and in the second part means registered voters,” said the text adopted by parliament. Big Blow Samarrai called the amendment a big blow to democracy in Iraq. “Such ploys and tricks will not break the staunch will of the Sunnis, who are resolved to register in numbers to vote down the charter,” he said. Adnan Al-Dulaimi, ex-chief of the Sunni Waqfs, said the amendment will only make Sunnis stronger. “We will join forces and turn out in droves to vote down the draft constitution no matter how hard they are pressed or intimidated,” he said. Numerous Sunni Arab political and religious leaders have already called for a “no” vote to the constitution basically because they believe that its federalist provisions will divide the country.
Sunnis further charge that the latest onslaughts by US-backed Iraqi troops on Sunni towns and cities under the pretext of fighting “insurgency” are aimed at blocking Sunni registration to vote in mid October. US Marines launched their biggest offensive so far this year against “insurgents” in western Iraq. “Playing With Fire” Some Kurds have also stricken the discordant note.
“It’s unfair and I didn’t vote for it,” Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of parliament, told Reuters. “It’s a double standard and it shouldn’t have happened.”
Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group, described the decision as a clear example of what happens when the majority decides its rules in a certain country.
“Obviously they want to win,” he said of the Shiites and Kurds, who tailored parts of the constitution to suit themselves, according to pundits. “But to play by this kind of majoritarian rule is very dangerous, it’s playing with fire,” he told Reuters from Amman. “They are excluding one community to make it look as if they have agreement.” Other analysts also conceded that there was unfairness in parliament’s decision, but said it just went to show how essential it was that the constitution was approved. “If this referendum is rejected, it’s an explicit rejection of the whole political process … It cannot be allowed to fail,” said Martin Navias, a research associate at the centre for defense studies at King’s College London.
A leading Brussels-based think-tank also warned last week that the rushed drafting of the constitution has deepened sectarian rifts and was likely to fuel violence in the country. The International Crisis Group (ICG) said that Iraq “appears to be heading toward de facto partition and full-scale civil war”, unless Washington makes “a determined effort to broker a true compromise between Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs.”
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa is expected to visit Iraq as soon as possible to prepare for a reconciliation conference grouping the country’s religious and ethnic mosaic.
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