Referendum on Constitution
The Iraqis are voting Saturday in a referendum on the new constitution. It was again endorsed by Shiite preachers and clerics on Friday. Sunni preacher were more divided.
Sunni Arabs in the west of Iraq are complaining about a lack of polling stations in their areas. Many wish to vote against the constitution today.
Guerrillas fought a firefight with American forces at Ramadi on Friday, among other instances of violence. Since the US military is now preventing most people from driving, though, there will be fewer car bombings until the driving ban is lifted.
There were other acts of violence on Friday, as Reuter reports.
This is what I said on the Lehrer News Hour on Friday:
‘ Trapdoors in the constitution?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Professor Cole, you’ve heard three colleagues talk about how important politics working is at this juncture. What’s your view?
Juan ColeJUAN COLE: Well, I think it’s important that politics is working and I think it’s also important toward what goal it is working. I’m a pessimist on this process, and I’m a severe critic of this constitution. Professor Dawisha was polite in the way he put it, but it’s full of trapdoors.
RAY SUAREZ: The constitution?
JUAN COLE: The constitution is full of trapdoors. There will be a provision that says revenues will be shared between the provinces and the federal government. In what way will they be shared? Well, there will be a law passed by subsequent parliament that will determine that.
So in many instances the people who are voting for this constitution have no idea what exactly it is, the substance that they’re voting for. The constitution allows provincial confederations which have claims on resources and perhaps on enormous resources.
It would be as though Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico could form a confederacy, and then they could tell Washington, well, you’re not going to be getting as much tax money from our oil as you used to, and moreover, if you want to talk to Austin, you have to go through our confederal parliament and our prime minister.
The last time we had a confederacy in this continent it caused a lot of trouble. And I’m very concerned that these provisions in the constitution could lead to such a weak central government and to such strong provinces that there will be centrifugal forces breaking the country apart.
And then 20 percent of the population, the Sunni-Arab population, seems to be pretty diehard against this constitution; that’s going to weaken its legitimacy. ‘
Voter participation in a democracy
RAY SUAREZ: But à propos of what’s been said earlier, is Iraq better off with passing a flawed constitution rather than having to go back to the drawing board and start from the beginning at a very, very fractious time in the country’s life?
JUAN COLE: Well, certainly it’s better off because if 80 percent of the population were supporting this process and this constitution, and they were disappointed, then the disappointment in the democratic process might be fateful for Iraq.
Certainly it’s much better that it pass than it not pass, but it is an extremely troubling document, and it should be remembered that the failure of the United States framers of the Constitution to deal with the slavery issue did hold within it ultimately the seeds of the civil war in this country, and putting off difficult issues, having open-ended compromises that don’t come to a decisive end can cause future trouble. It’s much better if things are settled. ‘