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There are confusing and interesting reports from Iraq on the forthcoming elections to ratify the "Shiite-Kurd" sponsored constitution. In order to prevent ratification of the constitution the Sunni minority  must now achieve 2/3 of the registered voters rather than 2/3 of the votes in any three provinces. In the recent "purple finger" election about 60% of the registered voters voted. It seems the pre-election rule change was designed to assure adoption of a constitution that may not have national support.

Robert F.Worth reports today in a very interesting aricle. Here are some excerpts:

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.

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 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.

You have got to love the speed they demostrate when corruption is needed!

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.

I wonder what is worse for the adminstration a phony vote or having the constitution turned down. I think they would go with the phony vote.

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.' "

Redefining "voter" does get to the heart of it...

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. 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.' "

The Iraqi national leadership is not doing much better as this great Financial Times article shows. They are battling for power despite the BS we get here on national unity. The Kurds and Shiites are wrestling in the mud while the bullets fly.

Disputes within the Iraqi government spilled out into the open this week, highlighting its dysfunctional state and sharpening concerns over its ability to lead the country to the December elections. Late on Sunday, a spokesman for President Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader, openly called for the resignation of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shia prime minister, accusing him of monopolising decision-making and breaking political promises. Mr Talabani on Monday distanced himself from his spokesman's comment. Also Sunday, Iraq's interior minister lashed out at Saudi Arabia, accusing the Saudi foreign minister, who has warned of growing Shia influence in Iraq, of being a “Bedouin riding a camel”. He chose to make his comments while Iraq's foreign minister was in the Saudi city of Jeddah trying to improve relations with Iraq's neighbours and arrange a visit to Saudi Arabia by the prime minister.
It is an amazing place we adopted as our 51st state.

Originally posted to What were you thinking on Tue Oct 04, 2005 at 12:00 PM PDT.

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