Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Iraqi "Parliament" Reverses Course

Last Sunday, Iraqi "Parliament", an institution dominated by the Kurds and the Shi'a, thought it would cleverly sneak through an amendment to the rules for the October 15th popular referendum on the flawed draft Constitution, doubtlessly at the prompting of United States Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who carries a brief from Bush to get the Constitution ratified on October 15--or else!

Under Sunday's backdoor rules, the Constitution could be voted down if and only if nearly all the registered voters within three provinces would turn out to vote "No". Meanwhile, the bar for a provincial "Yes" vote was lowered to a simple majority. The provision was meant as a sure-fire guarantee for ratification.

We noticed silence on the part of Washington after Sunday's vote. It wasn't until the United Nations observers complained that the ad-hoc change violated internationally recognized voting criteria, according to which a voter is someone who comes to the polling station on Election Day and casts a vote, that Washington expressed its "concern".

Sunday's parliamentary action has been rescinded and the upcoming referendum will proceed as originally provided by the US-imposed Transitional Administrative Law, whose vague stipulations suggested the opportunity for an end run in the first place. Article 61C of the TAL states: The referendum will considered successful and the draft Constitution ratified if a majority of Iraqi voters approve the draft and if two-thirds of electors in three or more provinces do not reject it. There is no mention of registered voters. Article 61C was crafted to enable Iraq's minorities to reject the Constitution. Ironically, it was likely that the US was thinking of the Kurds, not of the Sunni, when it estabished the rejection criteria. Hoisted by their own petard, as they say.

By the way, the voter rosters are notorious for their unreliability. United Nations observers point out that the rosters were created from lists of ration card holders which are not updated.

It will be interesting to see Ambassador Khalilzad's next move to guarantee ratification of the draft Constitution. Carpet bombing of Sunni provinces on Referendum Day might discourage voters.

Update: That's the idea, apparently. Not only has the US offensive in western Iraq driven thousands of Sunni voters out of Iraq and into Syria but the operations will keep voters at home. Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Hajem al-Hassani, on an official visit to Kuwait, has criticized the timing of the US offensives which he views a deliberate attempt to dissuade Sunnis from participating in the referendum.


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