PARIS, 17 Oct. (IPS) The international community, including Iran, welcomed the referendum of the Iraqi Constitution submitted to popular vote on Saturday 15 October and hoped that the result, in case it is positive as expected, would open the way for a smooth and gradual withdrawal of foreign presence and to the end of bloody violence attributed to so-called islamist jihadis.
Despite their fears that the Constitution would lead to the division, -- if not the end to the country’s territorial integrity -- along religion and community boundaries that cut them not only from oil resources concentrated in the north dominated by the Kurds and in the south, where Shi’a are in great majority, but even borders with outside world, the Sunnis went to the polls in greater number than expected.
the “good part” of the Constitution is that it does not satisfy any of the nation’s major ethnic demands
Considering the profound and historic divergences between the three major religious and ethnic communities of a country created by British colonialism within artificial borders, the proposed Constitution, despite all its shortcomings and ambiguities, is the best one could present the voters.
By establishing Islam as both the “official religion of the State and a fundamental source of legislation” and stipulating further that “No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established” the Constitution not only presents a major contradiction with the principles of democracy where it says “No law that contradicts the principles of democracy may be established”, but also does not pleases the majority of the Kurds who are in favour of true secularism as well as all other religious minorities.
In fact, although the proposed text says that the Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice such as Christians, Yazedis, and Mandi Sabeans (both small Christian-based faiths) but strangely does not mention the Jews who, until the military coup of general Abdol Karim Qasem in July 1958, were the largest religious minority in Iraq.
The Saturday vote, which Officials said as many as 63 percent of the 15 million eligible voters, including women, cast ballots, -- above the 58 percent seen in January, when many Sunnis boycotted the first elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein -- would pave the way for the next step in December, when people would go again to the polls to elect a parliament that would lead to the formation of the first democratically elected Government.
Partial results released by local officials showed the measure had passed despite high turnout in some Sunni areas where opposition to the constitution ran strongest.
According to the referendum rules, a two-thirds "No" vote in three of Iraq's 18 provinces would block the constitution even if most Iraqis backed it. But by late Monday it appeared that only two provinces had returned a potentially blocking "No" vote, making the chances of a veto remote.
Thanks to heavy security measures taken by the American and British forces as well the Iraqi Police and army, voters turned up in large number at polling stations despite the islamist terrorists who had promised to turn the country into a “blood pool”.
President Bush said Monday that he was pleased that Sunni Arabs cast so many ballots in Iraq over the weekend, even though they were voting to stop the proposed constitution from being ratified.
"I was pleased to see that the Sunnis have participated in the process", Mr. Bush said, adding, "The way forward is clear: The political process will continue with a constitution, if finally ratified, and then an election, coupled with a security plan that continues to train Iraqis so they do the fight", a reference to the withdrawal of American forces from that terrorist-ridden Middle Eastern country.
President Bush said Monday that he was pleased that Sunni Arabs cast so many ballots
But in Tehran, a close political advisor to Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i ridiculed the satisfaction expressed by American and European leaders, saying that the referendum is a “teeth breaking” answer from the Iraqi people to “occupation forces”.
“The opinion of the Iraqis who went massively to the polls thanks on the invitation of religious leaders particularly from Grand Ayatollah (Ali) Sistani is that after the December Legislative race, occupation forces would, as promised and as stipulated in the Constitution, would leave the country for ever, meaning that the present trend of situation in Iraq is not to the benefit of the Americans and their allies”, wrote Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadi, the leader-appointed Editor of the radical daily “Keyhan”, concluding that the satisfaction expressed by American and European leaders about the referendum is nothing “but an empty democratic gesture”.
“Based mostly on Islam, the proposed Iraqi Constitution can but please the Americans and their allies, but the outcome of the referendum is a great victory for the Iraqi people and the Muslims”, he said.
On a more realistic tone, the independent newspaper “Sharq” (Orient) noted that the “good part” of the Constitution is that it does not satisfy any of the nation’s major ethnic demands, taking as example the Kurdish aspirations for the right to self determination, a right that can lead to separation.
“Despite all shortcomings, the future look bright, but taking into account the present close cooperation between the al-Qa’eda in Iraq and in Afghanistan, hoping for the annihilation of the terrorists and that terrorist operations would end soon and Iraq recovering its peace and stability is rather premature”, the paper observed.
Now that the Iraqis have crossed successfully this crucial stage in their way to democracy, it remains to see if the terrorists opposed to peace in Iraq and in the Middle East would be able to continue their deadly operations.
“A day would come where, hopefully, political process would take over the blind violence’, commented Pierre Rousselin in the centrist French newspaper “Le Figaro”. ENDS IRAQ CONSTITUTION 171005