Parliament Reverses Referendum Rule
The United Nations has succeeded in convincing the Iraqi parliament to reverse itself. The interim constitution provides that if any three provinces reject the constitution by a 2/3s margin,it fails. (Iraq has 18 provinces). Sunni Arabs have been mobilizing to shoot it down in Anbar, Salah al-Din and Ninevah provinces, where they are the majority. Shiites apparently became concerned that they might actually succeed, and tried to change the rules. They stipulated that the constitution would only fail if 2/3s of registered voters rejected the constitution. Since security is very bad in the Sunni areas and turnout will be low, this measure would have made it impossible for the Sunnis to reject the constitution. The Sunni Arabs cried foul and threatened to boycott the referendum altogether, which would have much weakened the legitimacy of the constitution even if it had passed. The UN stepped in to point out, however, that such a test fails international standards of voting fairness. A result is decided by a majority of actual voters, not of potential voters (if people don’t actually cast a ballot, you cannot know how they would have voted).
It is a good sign that the Iraqi parliamentarians were open to being reasoned with on this issue. Now the question is whether the Sunni Arabs can succeed in defeating the constitution.
Meanwhile, for more on the implications of the building Shiite/Kurdish split, see Luke Baker reporting from Baghdad.