Process of Writing New Constitution Delayed
Seemingly irreconcilable differences will delay the writing of an Iraqi constitution, says journalist Ahmad Mukhtar in Iraq Today. He says that the Shiites on the Interim Governing Council demand that the drafters of the constitution be elected. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani suggested recently that a delegate be chosen on a proportional basis for each 100,000 Iraqis, based on the 1997 census. (That would yield a constitutional convention of 250 delegates). Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI has strongly insisted on elected drafters. In contrast, the five Kurdish representatives are afraid of a tyranny of the Shiite majority and want an appointed constitutional committee that will safeguard the rights of minorities. “Dara Nurridin, a Kurdish GC member, said he preferred “convention members to be selected from among legal experts, academics and politicians rather than by popular election.” The Kurds also want a loose Federal system with substantial provincial rights for the Kurds. Many of the Shiite representatives prefer a strong central government.
I suspect that the IGC will go on wrangling about this issue for a long time. No one in the Iraqi National Congress things that a constitution can be written in six months, as Colin Powell suggested. Hell, it will take 6 months at this rate to decide how to choose the drafters.
I believe that the prospect of this delay actually pleases many in the Bush administration, since they wish to put a strong American stamp on Iraq before turning it over to a newly elected government. Paul Bremer came in intending to rule the country himself for two years or so. He may essentially get to do just that, despite having been forced to acquiesce in the appointment of the IGC, just because the IGC cannot get its act together. On the other hand, Bush himself may wish he could be shut of Iraq as an issue by summer of 2004, so that it doesn’t become a burden to his reelection chances. He was assured by the neocons that Iraq would be a cake walk and that the US would be able to keep just 25,000 troops there after the war ended.
The US could, if it wanted, hold early elections under a modified version of a previous Iraqi constitution, and allow the constitution-writing to happen later. This is what the French, the Germans, the Saudis and others want. The Bush administration’s unwillingness to take that route has so far caused its search for a new UN resolution on Iraq to fail. The draft presented was openly attacked by UN Secretary General for marginalizing the UN, and seems dead in the water. In turn, the US cannot hope for substantial donations of troops or money for Iraq without the legitimacy bestowed by a UN SC resolution.