Sunni Arabs Reject Constitution
Anbar province to the west of Baghdad has about 1.2 million residents, almost all of them Sunni Arabs. It had the lightest turnout in the referendum Saturday on the new constitution, but what turnout there was appears to have been solidly negative. Of 209 polling stations in the province, the home of anti-American cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi, 60 to 70 stations did not open– largely for security reasons. That is, about a third of the population was deprived of the opportunity to vote there. Others, as in most of Ramadi, rejected the whole process as illegitimate insofar as it occurred under foreign military occupation. (There was also violence at Ramadi). It probably does not matter, though, since the vote with regard to the 3-province veto is by province. Anbar said “no” to the constitution.
Then there is Salahuddin Province, just north of Baghdad, with about one million inhabitants. Its major cities include Tikrit and Samarra. AP thought late Saturday evening that Sunni Arabs there might well muster a 2/3s majority against the constitution.
The other possible province in which Sunni Arabs had some hope of defeating the constitution by 2/3s is Ninevah, the home of Mosul city. Ninevah has some 2 million inhabitants. Ninevah has a substantial Sunni Turkmen minority, principally at Tal Afar, and they are militantly against the constitution, still smarting under the assault on that city by Iraqi government and US forces, which emptied it and leveled whole neighborhoods.
Ninevah is 2.5 million, including the city of Mosul, which has over a million residents. The majority is Sunni Arab and it could be province number 3 to reject the constitution. If that happened, the constitution would fail.
It seems clear that most Iraqi Sunnis paid no attention to the Iraqi Islamic Party of Muhsin Abdul Hamid, which had called for a “yes” vote after it helped wring last minute concessions from the Shiites and Kurds. A very important concession was that former members of the Baath Party would be allowed to reenter Iraqi society.
It seems unlikely that the constitution will be rejected, though it is now more of a question mark than it might have been.
If the Sunni Arabs reject the constitution virtually en masse in this referendum, it will severely bring into question the legitimacy of this national charter. Its passage, under these conditions, seems a guarantee of ongoing guerrilla warfare against the new order, and possibly a partition of the country.
The Kurds and the Shiites were enthusiastic about the constitution, though Shiite turnout in some provinces was very light.