Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reuters reports: Leaders of Iraq's Sunni and secular communities gave a cautious welcome on Friday to a plan to bring foreign experts to Baghdad to review the results of this month's election, which they say was fraudulent. They said they would cooperate with the experts and still hoped to join Shi'ites and Kurds in a grand coalition government capable of healing Iraq's sectarian wounds and providing its people with the basic services they so badly need. [...]

Sunday, December 25, 2005

New York Times via Star Tribune: An Iraqi court ordered at least 90 candidates in the recent national elections disqualified from serving in the Iraqi parliament because of their ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. While it was not clear whether more than a handful of the affected candidates would have won seats in parliament, the ruling bars some Sunni Arab leaders who probably would have won. And it is sure to stoke already-deep resentment among Sunni Arabs, who are likely to again have a limited role in the new government despite a large turnout at the ballot box nine days ago. [...]

Mail & Guardian: The governing Shi'ite coalition has called on Iraqis to accept results showing the religious bloc leading in parliamentary elections and moved ahead with efforts to form a "national unity" government. But as they reached out Saturday to Sunni Arabs and others, senior officials in the United Iraqi Alliance deepened the post-election turmoil by claiming that Islamic extremists and Saddam Hussein loyalists were at the forefront of those questioning the results. At least one Sunni Arab leader said he was upset by the Shi'ite comments. [...]

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

AP reports: Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened to boycott Iraq's new legislature Thursday if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body. A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as "fraudulent" and the elected lawmakers "illegitimate." A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded. It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League. [...]

Trudy Rubin of the Miami Herald: Elections signal shift in Sunni attitude. I've always rejected comparisons between the Iraq war and World War II because they are so misleading. Yet when people ask me whether this week's Iraq elections are a turning point that may enable U.S. troops to draw down, I find myself quoting Winston Churchill. ''This is not the end,'' Churchill said, following Montgomery's victory at El Alamein in November 1942. ``It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.'' The Iraqi elections offer a hope that the conflict may begin to shift from the era of car bombs into an era where violence is undercut by politics. Previous elections didn't stem the bloodshed because they failed to address the problem that underlies the violence. The alienated Sunni minority, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein and produces most of the insurgents, felt it had no role in the new Iraq. Sunnis refused to take part in legislative elections in January. But this time Sunnis crammed the polls, even in violent towns like Ramadi where the insurgency is potent. Two factors led to this Sunni attitude change: [...]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

AP reports: Sunni Arab and secular political groups joined forces Wednesday to decide whether to call for a repeat of parliamentary elections that gave the Shiite religious bloc a larger than expected lead. [...]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

BBC reports on the preliminary election results:

The Iraqi Accord Front came second with 18.6% of the vote in Baghdad Province, partial results from 89% of the ballot boxes showed. The Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance won 58% of the vote in Iraq's largest province, where 2,161 candidates ran for 59 of the Council of Representatives' 275 seats. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi National List came third. The election commission also announced that the United Iraqi Alliance was ahead in Basra and eight other southern provinces, and that the Kurdistan Alliance was leading in four northern provinces, including oil-rich Tamim. In the four remaining provinces, where the population of Sunni Arabs is largest, the Iraqi Accord Front came top. The front won 73% of the vote in Anbar Province, 36% in Nineveh, 33% in Salahuddin, 36% in Diyala.

The BBC's Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says the results in Baghdad will be bad news for both Mr Allawi and the Iraqi Accord Front, which wants to increase Sunni Arab representation in a parliament currently dominated by Shia and Kurdish parties. To judge from the votes counted so far, the Shia alliance is likely to retain its dominant position, our correspondent says. The election commission has said the final results will not be announced until early next month, due to an investigation into complaints of irregularities.

Washington Post: Sunni and secular political groups angrily claimed Tuesday that last week's Iraqi national election was rigged, demanded a new vote and threatened to leave a shambles the delicate plan to bring the country's wary factions together in a new government. Faced with preliminary vote counts that suggest a strong victory by the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite religious parties that dominates the outgoing government, political leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority hinted that insurgent violence would be accelerated by the suspicions of fraud.

UPI: Iraq's elections were marked by widespread intimidation and coercion by paramilitary groups, experts said Tuesday. "This election appears to have suffered from very many problems. The reports have become overwhelming," Leslie Campbell, regional director of Middle East and North African programs at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, told a meeting at the Center for American Progress, a think tank headed by John Podesta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.

Monday, December 19, 2005

AP reports: Preliminary results from most of Baghdad's ballot boxes showed the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance leading with 58 percent of the vote in Iraq's biggest electoral district, an election official said Monday. With results from 89 percent of Baghdad, the electoral commission said the alliance received 1,403,901 votes, followed by the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance party with 451,782 votes and former prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National List with 327,174. The commission did not provide any more details. Baghdad is Iraq's biggest electoral district with 2,161 candidates running for 59 of the Iraq parliament's 275 seats.

The Intelligencer: Iraq Elections Show Situation Improving

KUNA: Kuwait Cabinet expresses satisfaction with Iraq elections progress

Philadelphia Inquirer: Iraq elections signal shift in Sunni attitude

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: The Iraq elections: Time to deliver

UPI: Allawi group says fraud in Iraq elections

Niall Ferguson of the L.A. Times: History, democracy and Iraq I SAW TWO OF MY former students last week; one I taught at Cambridge, the other at Oxford. One of them has spent the better part of the last three years on her majesty's service in southern Iraq. The other is based in Jerusalem, working to broker an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Basra and Gaza are certainly not the places I expected them to end up. It is not, however, the fact that they are Oxbridge products — or, indeed, the fact that they are both women — that gives me hope for the future of the Middle East. It is the fact that they are historians.

After all, the forces bedeviling the Middle East today are fundamentally the same ones that tore Europe apart in the last century. Europe a century ago was the continent through which the world's biggest geopolitical fault lines ran. Like the Middle East today, it had the allure of natural resources (coal and iron, not oil). Like the Middle East today, it had a rapidly growing population that was deeply divided along ethnic lines (though the majority were Christians, not Muslims). And like the Middle East today, it was where the tectonic plates of empire met.


DEBKAfile reports (NOTE: not always a reliable source): DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources report he has come to deal with the formation of the Iraq government coalition in the light of surprises emerging in the preliminary counting of Iraq’s general election results. Our sources reveal early indications that the big winner is the Shiite Risaliya list headed by Ayatollah Taki Mudrassi, rival of Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Radical cleric Moqtada Sadr’s list in the United Iraq Alliance bloc has performed strongly. Former prime minister Iyad Allawi’s mixed Iraqi List has made solid gains of an estimated 30% of the Sunni Muslim vote and 20% among the Shiites. The Kurdish alliance appears to have lost ground but is still expected to hold the balance of power in the future National Assembly. Ahmed Chalabi’s party appears to have fared badly.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Economic Times (India): It could be a hung house in Iraq. Final results in Iraq’s parliamentary election may not be known for two weeks, but early indications show the Shiite tickets doing well in traditional Shiite strongholds, election officials said Friday. In Mosul, capital of the predominantly Sunni Arab province of Nineveh, indications were that the Sunni coalition came in first, said a representative for the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, Hameed Shabaky. He said the Shiite governing party apparently came in fourth behind the Sunni coalition, the Kurds and a bloc led by former PM Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite. Turnout in what was a mostly peaceful election was overwhelming. Election officials estimated up to 11m of the nation’s 15m registered voters took part in Thursday’s vote, which would put overall turnout at more than 70%. [...]

AP via Guardian (UK): A leading Sunni politician said Friday his party would be open to an alliance with secular Shiites and Kurds to form a coalition government to run the country once the results are in from this week's parliamentary elections. ``We will not accept the exclusion of any segment of the Iraqi people unless they themselves don't want to participate,'' said Adan al-Dulaimi, a former Islamic studies professor who heads a Sunni Arab bloc that is now expected to have power in parliament. U.S. officials view al-Dulaimi, who heads an alliance called the Iraqi Accordance Front, as a possible intermediary who could persuade some Sunni-led insurgent groups in restive Anbar province to join the political process after boycotting previous votes.

Financial Times: Strong Sunni turnout in Iraq election raises hopes for successful democracy.

Friday, December 16, 2005

SignOnSanDiego via AP: Iraqi authorities tallied millions of ballots Friday as complaints grew about the conduct of the parliamentary election, including some allegations of "violent interference" with voters. The election commission said none of the complaints involved fraud. Officials said it could take at least two weeks until final results are announced for the new, four-year parliament because all the complaints had to be investigated. Preliminary results might be available in less than a week, they said. [...]

Financial Times election wrap-up: Iraqi officials began counting ballots on Friday for the first post-invasion parliament and began investigating allegations of violations, including the intimidation of voters, in a process that may determine how much legitimacy Sunni Arabs accord the country’s nascent democracy. Iraq’s Independent Elections Commission said final results would not be ready for at least two weeks, giving the commission time to address complaints. However, officials have said that preliminary results from the 6,230 polling stations may be available in a week. An IECI commissioner said that between 10m and 11m voters had cast ballots, between 65 and 70 per cent of the eligible population. [...]

Tentative Iraqi election results show the Shi'ite religious coalition is leading the polls in Iraq's five southern provinces, while the Kurdish alliance looks set to triumph in the north. On Friday, electoral and party officials said strong results for the conservative Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) were expected in southern Iraq. The UIA might face stiffer competition from secular former premier Ilyad Allawi in urban areas like Baghdad, whose list often scored second in Shiite regions. The UIA includes religious parties like the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (Sciri) and Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari's Dawa party. [...]

News24 via SA: Counting begins after Iraq vote Votes were being counted on Friday after Iraq's legislative election saw a strong turnout with minimal violence. Electoral officials briefly extended Thursday's voting owing to the turnout, which preliminary estimates put at between 60 and 80%, surpassing an October referendum, with Sunni Arabs casting ballots in record numbers.

Daily Yomiuri (Japan) editorial: Iraq poll is a big step toward normal govt Iraq's general election, a major milestone on the road to permanent parliamentary democracy, ended Thursday without any major problems. Though the country still faces a host of challenges, the success of the election to choose a parliament means that Iraq has made another important step toward peace and stability. All the religious and ethnic groups in the country, including Sunni Arabs who boycotted the January election for the provisional Iraqi National Assembly, participated in the election. It is significant that every group in Iraq has now engaged in the political process for the first time. In particular, the participation of Sunnis in the process may help improve the country's security in the future because most of the militants in Iraq are believed to be Sunnis. Through a popular verdict, the first regular government to be created under the new Constitution will be able to claim a strong basis for legitimacy. [...]

Thursday, December 15, 2005

BBC News has an entire page of links to news reports, opinion, and analysis.

AP update:

Iraqis voted Thursday in one of the largest and freest elections in the Arab world, with strong turnout reported in Sunni areas and even a shortage of ballots in some precincts. Several explosions rocked Baghdad throughout the day, but the level of violence was low. The heavy participation in the parliamentary voting by the Sunnis, who had shunned balloting last January, bolstered U.S. hopes of calming the insurgency enough to begin withdrawing its troops next year. But much depends on whether the sides, after the votes are counted, can form a government to reconcile Iraq's various communities, or merely fan the current tensions. Officials were forced to extend voting for one hour, until 6 p.m. (10 a.m. EST) as long lines were reported in some precincts, which election commission spokesman Farid Ayar called a sign that the balloting "was successful and turnout was good." Results will be announced within two weeks. [...]

Despite their ethnic and religious differences, most Iraqis who voted Thursday agreed that what they need most from the future government is security and stability. Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Kurds, all said they need better than the misery they are living. "The first thing we want from the new government is security," Hussein Ali Abbas, 66, said as he voted at Baghdad city hall. "We also want the good for the Iraqis. We are surviving but it is a struggle." The insurgency has killed thousands and wounded many others the past 30 months. Car bombs and suicide attacks have spread fear by targeting mosques, churches, police stations, religious pilgrims and funerals. Theft and kidnapping for ransom also are common. Tens of thousands of well-off Iraqis have moved away, mainly going to neighboring Syria and Jordan to give their families a normal life. Those who cannot afford to go are reluctant to venture from home. After sunset, this city of about 6 million people turns into a ghost town. Few Iraqis want Saddam Hussein to return to power, but many miss the heavy-handed security during a 24-year dictatorship that made Iraq's streets some of the safest in the world. They are worn down by violence that President Bush this week estimated has caused about 30,000 deaths since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. [...]

Iraqis Rewarded for Patience at the Polls. Trodding along streets emptied of traffic, Iraqis swarmed to polling stations Thursday, lined up patiently to be searched, pored over long paper ballots with dozens and dozens of candidate lists and then cast their votes for a permanent legislature. Men emerged from one polling site in the capital's Sadr City neighborhood jubilantly waving hands with fingers stained with indelible purple ink to prevent multiple voting. [...]

Mariam al-Rayes still remembers the words of a skeptical colleague at law school. "You cannot work as a lawyer because people do not trust women lawyers," he told her many years ago. Since then, al-Rayes has successfully practiced law and gone on to become one of nearly 90 women in Iraq's current 275-member parliament, dominated by a coalition of Shiite religious parties to which she belongs. And she was hoping to keep her spot in the legislature, campaigning in Thursday's elections, but this time on a different ticket. Some women's rights activists argue that female legislators have little to show for their time in parliament. Harsher critics even accuse them of helping pass a constitution that the critics say undermines women's rights. [...]

New York Times: Outside Baghdad, Ink-Stained Fingers and Hope for Future

Reuters: Undeterred by scattered violence, Iraqis voted in overwhelming numbers in an election on Thursday, with minority Sunni Arabs who boycotted the last poll determined not to miss out on power again. Turnout in 10 hours of voting was at least 10 million, or 67 percent, Election Commission chief Hussein Hendawi told Reuters, much higher than the 58 percent who voted in the previous election on January 30. The demand to vote was so strong that polling stations were kept open an extra hour to allow those waiting in line to cast ballots. In Saddam Hussein's home province more than 80 percent of voters turned out, an electoral official said.

Scotsman: Election facts and figures.

L.A. Times: Iraqis walked through mostly silent streets this morning to begin voting in their country's most competitive election in decades, a U.S.-backed exercise that will produce the first full-term government here since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The mood of early voters was solemn. Some went to polling centers with their families, others alone. Iraqi soldiers and special police commandos guarded the centers, mostly schools, and frisked everyone entering. U.S. soldiers in armored vehicles patrolled the streets. [...]

Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington Post: After the Elections. Today is a historic day for Iraq. Iraqis of all sects and ethnic groups will participate in elections. Most significantly, the Sunni Arab community will participate in large numbers. More than 1,000 Sunni clerics have called on their followers to vote. A number of Sunni Arab political groups that boycotted the January elections are fielding candidates. Sunni Arab leaders have called on insurgents to cease their attacks, and some insurgent groups have said they will comply. Today's elections will create a National Assembly that is far more representative than the current one. This in turn can help accelerate progress toward success in Iraq. Success will depend on improvements in establishing a broad-based and effective government; building stronger Iraqi security forces, and gaining the confidence of all Iraqi communities in their security institutions; winning over insurgents to the political process; increasing the capacity of the national and local government; instituting economic reforms and promoting private-sector development; and gaining more support from neighboring states for stabilizing Iraq. [...]

Voting starts. AP updates:

Iraqis lined up amid tight security Thursday to vote in a historic parliamentary election the U.S. hopes will lay the groundwork for American troops to withdraw, with a mortar landing near the heavily fortified Green Zone just minutes after polls opened. No injuries were reported, but the blast underscored concerns of violence despite a promise by Sunni insurgent groups not to attack the polls. Dozens of Iraqis waiting to cast ballots at Baghdad's city hall went through three separate checkpoints as police searched each person entering the downtown site. "The first voting process to choose a parliament with a four-year term in Iraq has started," senior election official Abdul-Husein Hendawi said.

Buildings still lie in ruins, pulverized by one of the most intense urban battles of the Iraq war. The city is sealed off, with only residents allowed into or out of the tight security cordon. But despite continuing violence and intimidation in Iraq's insurgent heartland, turnout for Thursday's election in Fallujah, once the effective headquarters of the insurgency, was expected to be high. Iraq polls hinge on Sunni participation.

Jerusalem Post: Iraq locks down ahead of elections.

Knight-Ridder Washington: Building coalitions seen as key to success in Iraq

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Iraq election at a glance

BBC News: Iraq election: Turning point at last?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Officer's Club blog writes about preparing for the election.

Scotsman (UK): More than 1,000 Sunni clerics in Iraq issued a fatwa yesterday, telling members of their minority Muslim community to vote in tomorrow's elections. The call came as violence marred the last day of campaigning, with one candidate killed and another narrowly escaping an assassination attempt. Most Sunnis boycotted the elections to an interim parliament on 30 January. But Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie, who heads the government agency in charge of the maintaining Sunni mosques and shrines, said: "This is a fatwa from more than 1,000 Iraqi scholars who are urging Iraqis to vote."


Nancy Yousef, Knight-Ridder: Election will set a course for Iraq. Plastered on the pervasive blast walls that protect buildings on nearly every major thoroughfare in Baghdad are dozens of poster-sized ads in rows, aimed at winning over passing motorists. Some have pictures of smiling politicians, while others show stone-faced religious leaders whose dogma could shape the next government. Iraqis will head to the polls Thursday for a National Assembly election that could offer a last chance to move a country that's rife with sectarian division and violence toward reconciliation and stability. If all works well, the elections might pave the way toward starting an orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops. [...]

Times of India: In a rare joint statement, al-Qaida in Iraq and four other Islamic extremist groups denounced the election as a 'satanic project' and said that "to engage in the so-called political process" violates "the legitimate policy approved by God." The groups vowed to "continue our jihad (holy war) ... to establish an Islamic state ruled by the book (the Quran) and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad".

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

AP: Iraqi expatriates turned out to vote Tuesday in national elections, leaving voting stations with ink-stained fingers and expressing hope for the violence-torn country many fled during Saddam Hussein's brutal regime.

Washington Post FAQ: Iraq Parliamentary Elections

Monday, December 12, 2005

The voting has begun.

Coverage continues on Gateway Pundit.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mohammed of Iraq the Model goes deep inside the Iraqi election.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zaman Online (Turkey): Iraq's New Constitution Passed by a Hairsbreadth Sunni parties unite for Iraq election. Three mostly Sunni Arab political parties have announced that they have formed a coalition to run in Iraq's parliamentary election in December. The three - the General Conference for the People of Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Dialogue - have been urging Sunnis to take part in the December 15 election. They named their coalition the Iraqi Accord, said Ayad al-Samarrie, a senior official in the Iraqi Islamic Party. Sunni Arabs, to whom belonged all the Iraqi presidents since the establishment of the Iraqi state in 1921, largely boycotted the January 30 election that produced Iraqi's current mostly Shia and Kurdish interim government.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

AP: Turnout by province in Iraq's Oct. 15 referendum on a new constitution as reported by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Countrywide, 9,775,000 Iraqis voted, about 63 percent of registered voters. the commission said.

AP: Iran's supreme leader, long a critic of the United States, praised the U.S.-backed constitutional referendum in Iraq as "blessed" Friday and urged Iraqis to participate December's parliamentary elections.

BBC: Referendum crisis looms in Iraq

Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel editorial: The Iraq Constitution: And They Call This Victory?

San Jose Mercury News: New constitution may have hard time halting Iraq's fragmentation

Friday, October 21, 2005

Outlook India (London): Iraq, After The Constitution. A reader asks: The successful adoption of a federal constitution in Iraq is a notable achievement. But will it help maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq as it has existed since 1921, an end to violence or flowering of democracy? [...]

Reuters: Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who has said Iraq is on the verge of civil war, held talks with Iraqi leaders on Thursday on a tough mission to promote national reconciliation in a country ravaged by violence. On his first postwar visit to Iraq, the former Egyptian diplomat met Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and was also expected to hold talks with President Jalal Talabani and leading Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Arab states such as Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia have complained that non-Arab Shi’ite Iran is gaining influence in Iraq to the detriment of regional stability. Arab commentators have also said the draft constitution weakens Iraq’s Arab identity. For his part, Moussa, a veteran Egyptian diplomat, has criticised what he says is a lack of any strategy to reconcile Iraq’s rival communities.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Washington Post via San Jose Mercury News: Sandstorms, voting probe delay Iraq election results. Bad weather and possible ballot irregularities may delay the final tally in Iraq's constitutional referendum until the end of the week, the organization tabulating the vote said Tuesday. Sandstorms have prevented some ballots from reaching Baghdad to be certified, and officials said they were conducting a random audit of results after more than half of Iraq's 18 provinces registered notably high percentages of either ``yes'' or ``no'' votes. [...]

Kurdistan Regional Government: Iraq’s Constitution: Excerpts and Analysis.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Newsday: Final results from Iraq's landmark referendum on a new constitution will likely not be announced until Friday at the earliest because of delays getting counts to the capital and a wide-ranging audit of an unexpectedly high number of "yes" votes, election officials said. The returns have raised questions over the possibility of irregularities in the balloting. With the delays, the outcome of the crucial referendum will remain up in the air possibly into next week, at a time when the government had hoped to move public attention to a new milestone: the start of the trial of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein on Wednesday.

Reuters via Moscow Times: Iraq Rejects Suggestions of Referendum Fraud. Iraqi officials checking results from some regions from Saturday's constitutional referendum said on Tuesday that the audit did not imply fraud in the voting. Iraq's electoral commission said on Monday that it would follow international practice by examining "unusually high" results from provinces which recorded margins of 90 percent or more in favor or against the new draft constitution. The statement fueled debate over the bitterly fought referendum, with some Sunni Arab leaders suggesting the Shiite- and Kurdish-led government had fiddled with numbers to ensure passage of the U.S.-backed charter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Reuters: Iraqi officials checking results from some regions in Saturday's constitutional referendum said on Tuesday the audit did not imply fraud in the voting.

Monday, October 17, 2005

AP: Election workers announced "unusually high" vote counts in Iraq's landmark referendum on the draft constitution, saying Monday that they will audit results showing unexpected ratios of "yes" to "no" votes from some parts of the country.

BBC editorial: No easy answers to Iraq's troubles.

Iran News: Iran's foreign minister said Monday that Iraq was facing the promise of "bright future with peace and stability" amid expections the country had approved a new constitution in a referendum. In a congratulatory message, Manouchehr Mottaki also called for the "continuation of broad cooperation of the Iraqi people in the political arena" in order to "achieve independence, the exit of foreign forces and a return of Iraq to its natural regional position." [...]

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia): Iraqi experiment splitting at the seams. This is another don't-know kind of week in Iraq. The result of Saturday's national referendum won't be known before Thursday but it appears a new constitution has been endorsed. Not that it's going to make much difference. It will give hope to American diehards who will claim the process and the document are proof of democracy at work. But, sadly, the reverse is the case. This is a Clayton's constitution - a conflicted, contradictory unity bill for a country tearing itself apart, accepted in a vote dictated by the fault lines of Iraqi history. Here are some of the elements of the constitution that mock notions of national unity and invite civil war. [...]

A few similar stories reporting on the results:

The Australian: All but two Iraqi provinces say yes. A higher than expected turnout by Sunni voters appears to have failed to stop passage of Iraq's draft constitution, with early counts suggesting a yes vote in all but two of the country's 18 provinces. The likely victory seems certain to spark more violence and raises the prospect of Iraq being divided along ethnic and sectarian lines. The Sunni Arab minority, which violently opposed the new charter, lives largely within four provinces in the centre of Iraq and needed to muster a two-thirds no vote in three of the provinces in order to defeat it.

The Age (Australia): A step closer to democratic rule. Iraqis are set to elect a democratic government after supporting the weekend's landmark constitution referendum. President Jalal Talabani yesterday issued a decree setting December 15 as the date Iraqis will vote to elect a new parliament. Iraq's constitution seemed assured of passage after initial results showed minority Sunni Arabs had fallen short in an effort to veto it at the polls. The apparent acceptance was a major step in the attempt to establish a democratic government, which could lead to the pull-out of US troops. Opponents failed to secure the necessary two-thirds "no" vote in any three of Iraqi's 18 provinces, according to counts local officials provided yesterday. [...]

Walid Phares of World Defense Review: On October 15, 2005, an historic Iraqi victory was registered in the 6,235 polling centers across the country. Millions of Iraqis cast their ballot for a "yes" or a "no" to the new constitution. Regardless of the final results, the political process in the post-Baath Iraq is emerging as a victor against the stubborn terror attacks by al Qaida and the Saddam regime remnants. From that angle alone, the bloc of 15.4 million registered voters – including those who voted "no," or weren't able to participate because of fear – have defeated one more time the forces of Jihadism and Baathism. On January 30, the very first free election in Iraq dealt the first blow to the Terrorists. The October 15 referendum produced the second defeat to the Jihadists. Here is why: [...]

IOL (South Africa): World leaders praise Iraq for referendum move. The referendum on the Iraqi constitution was hailed internationally on Sunday as a key step towards democracy and stability, and what Washington called a "bad day" for terrorists. With the results not yet known, both Western countries and the Arab Gulf states congratulated the Iraqis on holding the vote, hoping the process would bring back security to the troubled country. [...]

Washington Post: For the Bush administration, the apparent approval of Iraq's constitution is less of a victory than yet another chance to possibly fashion a political solution that does not result in the bloody division of Iraq. Publicly, administration officials hailed the result but privately some officials acknowledged that the road ahead is still very difficult, especially because Sunni Arab voters appeared to have rejected the constitution by wide margins. As one official put it, every time the administration appears on the edge of a precipice, it manages to cobble together a result that allows it to move on to the next precipice. [...]

The Courier-Mail (Australia): Iraq reaffirms December poll date. Iraq was to hold parliamentary elections on December 15, regardless of whether yesterday's referendum on a new constitution was successful or not. The election date has been confirmed today by the office of the president. Iraq's interim constitution, drawn up last year, stated that parliamentary elections would have to be held by December 15, 2005. Results of the referendum on adopting a new constitution are not yet known, but early returns suggest it was approved. "December 15 is the day," Kamaran Padaghi, a spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, said. [...]

CTV (Canada): Iraq notebook: Referendum Day

AP update:

Initial Results From Iraq's Referendum. Initial results from Iraq's constitutional referendum, as reported by election officials in each province. The figures are from the first tallies done by each province's counting centers, which must be sent to Baghdad for another check and compilation. The final official figures, likely to be announced no sooner than Tuesday, may differ. [...]

Iraq's Sunni Arabs Have Choices to Make. They turned out to vote this time, but appeared to have lost at the polls. Will Iraq's Sunni Arabs still stick with the political process they have finally joined? Or, dismayed by their country's direction, will they return to the sidelines and look to the Sunni-led insurgency for a better deal? Sunni Arabs, a minority that had traditionally formed Iraq's ruling class, came out of their political isolation Saturday to vote in droves on a draft constitution that many of them see as flawed. Accounting for just 20 percent of Iraq's estimated 27 million people, they mostly voted "no," but the charter seemed virtually certain of passage. [...]

The Independent (UK): Sunni voters fail to block Iraq's new constitution. Iraqi voters have almost certainly approved a new constitution that reduces the authority of central government and gives strong powers to Kurdish and Shia regions. Early counting of votes cast in the referendum on Saturday suggests that the Sunni community was unable to muster enough votes to veto the constitution. To do so, the Sunni needed to win two-thirds of the votes in three provinces. There was a high turnout in Sunni-dominated provinces, but only in two of them - Anbar and Salahudin - did those opposed to the constitution appear to be heading for victory. [...]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Reuters: Iraqis look to have voted "Yes" to their U.S.-brokered constitution, as poll workers counted and recounted piles of ballots across Iraq on Sunday and the possibility of a Sunni minority veto receded.

AP: Some Iraqis in the Detroit area welcomed this weekend's vote on Iraq's constitution, which seemed assured of passage Sunday despite strong opposition from Sunni Arabs. Some, like Khalid Al Saeedy, said the vote is one more step toward establishing a peaceful democracy in Iraq. [...]

Fareed Zakaria (Newsweek): Finally, a Smart Iraq Strategy. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has been doing yeoman service there. Last week he snatched a small victory from the jaws of defeat by getting the largest organized Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, to agree with the Shia and Kurds on amendments to the new Iraqi constitution. The effect of these amendments was to lessen the import of Saturday's vote for the constitution. The constitution can now be amended at will by the next Iraqi Parliament, which will be elected on Dec. 15. In other words, if the constitution fails, it will be rewritten, and if it succeeds, it can be rewritten. [...]

Strategypage: Another Election Carried Out Despite Terrorist Threats

Blog "...Or Does It Explode?": One small step. Three years ago on October 15, Iraqis went to the polls for a tense election showdown between Saddam Hussein and himself. The razor-thin margin of victory was a mere .01%... under 100%. Five months later, the referendum lead by US tanks and fighter jets produced a slightly different outcome. Three years later, October 15 sees another election. This time, thanks to a relative lack of terror attacks, we get to see civil society in action on a national scale.

AP: Sunni Arabs voted in surprisingly high numbers on Iraq's new constitution Saturday, many of them hoping to defeat it in an intense competition with Shiites and Kurds over the shape of the nation's young democracy after decades of dictatorship. With little violence, turnout was more than 66 percent in the three most crucial provinces. [...]

Reuters: Washington thinks Iraqis voted "Yes" to their U.S.-brokered constitution but as poll workers counted and recounted piles of ballots across Iraq on Sunday the possibility of a Sunni minority veto lurked in the background. "Most people assume on the ground that it probably has passed," Rice told reporters during a visit to London, hailing the turnout in Sunni Arab areas which had largely boycotted a vote in January to the parliament that wrote the constitution. [...]

AP via CNN: Arab press split on Iraq's future. Iraq may be on the road to recovery after its landmark constitutional referendum, some Arab newspapers predicted Sunday, while others suggested bloodier days were still ahead regardless of the vote outcome. [...]

Reuters: The United Nations hailed Iraq's constitutional referendum on Saturday as "incredibly peaceful", with few infringements of procedure.

AP: Various stories as Iraq's citizens go to the polls.

New York Times: Read the entire text of Iraq's draft Constitution.

Reuters: Provinces in focus as Iraq counts votes. [...] The key could lie in the northern province of Nineveh and the city of Mosul. Sitting some 400 km (250 miles) north of Baghdad, Mosul has a volatile mix of about two million Sunni Arabs and Kurds near some of Iraq's richest oil fields. [...]

AP: Sunnis turn out to reject Iraqi charter. [...] Sunni Arabs voters turned out in surprising numbers Saturday, many of them heeding calls of their clerics to reject the charter. If two-thirds of voters in three Sunni provinces reject the constitution, it will be defeated, even if it wins a majority nationwide. But even if minority Sunnis fail to block the charter's ratification, a strong "no" vote within the community - which dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein - raises questions about whether the charter will fulfill Washington's goal of luring fighters away from the Sunni-led insurgency. [...]

Focus English News: Kurds in Northern Iraq voted actively in today’s referendum on a new Constitution of Iraq.

ABC News / AFP: Counting underway in Iraq referendum. Iraqi officials are counting ballots after a historic vote on a US-backed constitution, with the fate of the document hanging one a few provinces where Sunnis may muster enough "no" votes to block it. [...] Election officials said partial results from the vote could be available as early as Sunday, but that it would take several days for the verdict to become clear. [...]

Spiral of Lies blog: Why it was worth it. I am watching the results of the Iraqi Constitutional voting, amazed. Amazed that no one is talking about this vote in the proper historical context. Because today will be as important to the War on Terror as the fall of the Berlin Wall was to the Cold War.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

XINHUA (China): Eight of Iraq's 18 provinces, including three Sunni Arab provinces, had a turnout of more than 66 percent in the landmark referendum on the draft constitution, an electoral official said on Saturday.

New York Times: Turnout Is Mixed as Iraqis Cast Votes on Constitution. Millions of Iraqis streamed to the polls Saturday to vote on a new constitution, joined by what appeared to be strong turnouts of Sunni voters in some parts of the country. But the Sunni turnout - high in some cities like Mosul, low in others like Ramadi - appeared to be insufficient to defeat the new charter, and Iraqi officials predicted that it would pass.

Iraq vote turnout may exceed 10 million. Turnout in Iraq's constitutional referendum may have reached 10 million voters, or nearly two thirds of those registered, a member of Iraq's Electoral Commission said after polls closed. "I think it could be more than 10 million, I think, I hope," Farid Ayar, one of seven commissioners on the Electoral Commission, said on Saturday. "I was thinking that maybe we could get around 11 million voters. But Iraqis are getting more used to going and voting now, so perhaps it was a little bit quieter ... and it was Ramadan," he said, referring to the Muslim fasting month. If 10 million of the eligible 15.5 million voters cast ballots, that would give a turnout of around 65%, higher than the 58% recorded in January's election, the first held after Saddam Hussein's overthrow.

Ten people working for the independent Iraqi electoral commission have been abducted during the constitutional referendum in the restive Sunni al-Anbar province, the commission said.

Baghdad Sunnis say 'No' to charter. Bitter emotions in al-Aadhamiya left few doubts that whoever leads Iraq after December elections has a long way to go to win over the trust of the Sunni community. Sunnis interviewed in other parts of Baghdad were divided over the constitution, some voting "Yes" and others "No". But there were no mixed signals in the capital's Sunni heartland fiercely opposed to the charter drafted by Shia and Kurdish leaders. The mood in the al-Aadhamiya district of the capital on Saturday contrasted sharply with other areas, even nearby Sunni districts. "Of course I am voting 'No'," said Muhammad Hasan. "This document neglects the Sunnis and it just helps the Shia. We want a united Iraq , not one that is carved up into federal states."

Editorial note: As a couple readers noted, is not the same as Al Jazeera.

AP, via Khaleej Times: High turnout in Iraq’s day of voting.

BBC echoes earlier reports: Quiet vote for Iraq charter. Voting was quiet, calm, and steady at the polling station we visited just south of Basra. There was not the excitement of January's election, but there was still an atmosphere of celebration among Iraq's Shias as they waited to vote. One man said with a big grin that he was very happy to be able to take part in the referendum - only the second time in decades that Iraqis have been able to cast a democratic ballot.

Blogger "GOP Vixen" notes there were 13 incidents rather than 347, comparing today's polling to January's.

A comment in Publius' blog, from Baghdad: To add an update, the place I work is atop a hill which overlooks most of the city of Baghdad. On a normal day we hear numerous explosions, both large and small, as well as plenty of small arms fire. I think it is a testament to the ability of the new Iraqi forces to report that as of 5:00 pm today, I have heard zero explosions or weapons fire today.

The New York Times has multi-page coverage of the voting.

An earlier editorial from the Boston Globe: On the eve of Iraq vote, discord on its import. Sunnis weigh how to define their role.

Reuters: President George W. Bush vowed on Saturday that the United States "will not run" from Iraq as it did from Vietnam, as he welcomed voting on a new Iraqi constitution and called it step forward for democracy. Speaking near the close of voting on a charter aimed at reshaping Iraq's political structure after Saddam Hussein, Bush also praised the draft charter, which is strongly supported by ethnic Shi'ites and Kurds but opposed by many Sunni Arabs.

Al jazeera analysis: Why is Iraq’s constitution crucial to the U.S.? Tomorrow’s vote on Iraq's draft constitution, considered by some a major test for the country after years of suppression under Saddam’s rule then the ruthless occupation, is far more important to the U.S. government than it is to the Iraqis. [...]

The Age (Australia): Iraqis open 'door to freedom'. Iraqis walked through silent streets yesterday morning to begin voting on a new constitution which, if passed, would mark a major step towards the formation of the country's first full-term government since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Some of the voters marched to polling centres with close friends or family members, others alone. Iraqi policemen with Kalashnikovs guarded the centres, mostly schools, and frisked people as US troops sat in tanks and armoured fighting vehicles nearby. In Baghdad, helicopters buzzed low over dun-coloured rooftops. Nearly all civilian cars were banned from the streets because of strict security rules mirroring those put in place during elections in January. [...]

Reuters echoes AP: In unexpected calm, millions of Iraqis voted on Saturday in a referendum on a new constitution that is designed to reshape the country after Saddam Hussein but which many fear may tear it further apart. Insurgents fought gunbattles with Iraqi and U.S. forces in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, but throughout the capital and much of the country, voting appeared to go smoothly and safely for 10 hours until polling stations began closing at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT).

Violence update: relatively speaking, very quiet: A roadside bomb has killed three Iraqi soldiers in northeast Iraq and six people were wounded during attacks by insurgents on four of Baghdad’s 1,200 polling stations in the constitutional referendum, police said.

StrategyPage covers Why Sunni Arabs are negotiating.

AP updates:

Key Points in Iraq's Draft Constitution.

What's Next for Iraq After Referendum.

Polls Close for Vote on Iraq Constitution.


Shawn Wasson is liveblogging the vote.

Omar of Iraq The Model is photoblogging.

Sooni is also photoblogging.


Chester is liveblogging.

Publius Pundit is also covering the polls.

After decades of repression and more than two years of war and insurgency, Iraqis went to the polls Saturday to vote on a draft constitution that would set up a democratic framework to govern the religiously and ethnically disparate nation. Polls across Iraq opened at 7 a.m. (midnight ET), amid tight security. Ahead of the vote, national and provincial borders were closed and nighttime curfews ordered. (CNN)

Austin Bay editorial: Iraq: lurching from terrorist hell to hope of democracy

Al jazeera editorial: Best bet: Dividing Iraq In what the American President George W. Bush claims to be another milestone on Iraq’s road to democracy, Iraqi headed to polling stations today to give a “yes” or “no” to the proposed draft constitution, expected to further divide the country into three min states.

The Nation (Bangkok) editorial: Iraq at the crossroads In another milestone on that nation’s road to democracy, voters will today approve or reject the new constitution. The people of Iraq have reached a crucial moment in their modern history, as they go out and make their voices heard today in the historic referendum on their draft constitution, in spite of terrorist efforts to derail this endeavour. The referendum is being held three years after ousted former president Saddam Hussein - who is awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity - was re-elected for the last time in a poll that showed 100 per cent of the vote in his favour.

L.A. Times: Shiite religious leaders mobilized followers Friday for a massive show of support in favor of Iraq's draft constitution, hoping to secure approval of the charter despite continued opposition among angry but increasingly divided Sunnis. Militants attacked five offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the prominent Sunni group that agreed to back the charter in exchange for last-minute concessions. Among the offices targeted was the one in Baghdad and the main office in Fallujah, which was set on fire. No one was injured in those attacks. [...] The referendum Saturday follows months of grueling negotiations among Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds. These often centered on the meaning of Iraq as a nation. Until this week, Sunni Arabs, who were underrepresented in the interim government because of their failure to participate in Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, were set to vote en masse against the proposed charter because they believe it mandates a weak central government and fails to uphold Iraq's Arab identity.

Mohammed Hamed al-Obadi doesn't like the proposed constitution that Iraqis will vote up or down on Saturday. When he walks through the dusty streets of his Sunni Muslim neighborhood, very few people have much good to say about it. But, unanimously, they agree they'll vote to make it law. "It's time for the Sunni people to get involved in the democratic process," said the 50-year-old son of a Sunni tribal sheik. "We boycotted the vote last January, and we lost because of it. This time, we must show our support for one Iraq by approving this constitution, then we must make it work for us, from the inside." (Knight-Ridder via SJ Mercury News)

Star Tribune editorial: Lots of ifs for Iraq. With Iraqis poised to vote on a draft constitution today, some Sunni leaders have changed their tune and appealed to their followers to support the document. In return, the Sunnis get an opportunity to amend it following parliamentary elections. We hope they haven't bought a pig in a poke. Sunnis make up 20 percent of Iraq's population, and the notion that they will somehow push significant changes through a parliament controlled by Kurds and Shiites is dubious. The arrangement may well get the constitution safely past the referendum, and it certainly begins to pry the Sunni population away from the insurgency. But the constitution remains a flawed document. It represses women; it prohibits many Sunni professionals from participating in public life because of ties to the Baath Party, and it allows the Kurds and Shiites to form regional governments with dangerous degrees of autonomy. [...]

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

AP: Parliament on Wednesday approved a set of last-minute amendments to Iraq's draft constitution, sealing a compromise aimed at gaining Sunni support in this weekend's crucial referendum, the parliament speaker said. Iraq's top leaders, including the Kurdish president, Sunni Arab vice-president, and Shiite prime minister, lined up on stage before the gathered lawmakers in parliament, lauding the deal as a show of unity between the country's often divided factions and communities. The hour-long session, attended by 157 of parliament's 275 members - ended without the lawmakers voting on the amendments, but Parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani said no actual vote was necessary and that the compromise was approved. [...]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

blogger Publius Pundit writes: The Iraqis have worked out a very good deal amongst themselves. So good, in fact, that one key Sunni group is dropping its opposition to the constitution. The deal would allow the December parliament to make amendments to the constitution, in which Sunnis and liberal secularists will have a much higher representation and voice than the currently Kurdish and religious Shiite dominated parliament. It also works out some other key issues. [...]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

AP: Under U.S. and U.N. pressure, Iraq's Shiite-led parliament Wednesday reversed its last-minute electoral law changes, which would have ensured passage of a new constitution but which the United Nations called unfair. Sunni Arab leaders who had threatened a boycott because of the changes said they were satisfied with the reversal and were now mobilizing to defeat the charter at the polls. But some warned they could still call a boycott to protest major U.S. offensives launched over the past week in western Iraq, the Sunni heartland.

The reversal of the election changes passed by parliament over the weekend was a political victory for U.N. and U.S. officials, boosting chances that Sunnis will see the referendum as fair and participate, thus giving the outcome credibility. Yet that success restored the possibility that Sunnis will manage to veto the constitution, which would prolong Iraq's political instability. The United States in particular is eager to see the passage of the charter, viewed as key to beginning the withdrawal of some U.S. forces. Saleh al-Mutlaq, a top Sunni politician, said the boycott threat over the election law was lifted. "I am sure if there is honesty (in the election process) 95 percent of the Sunni Arabs will vote 'no,' " he said.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Iraq has depleted its defense procurement budget due to widespread corruption, torpedoing plans to end the military's dependence on the United States. An official Iraqi audit said $1.27 billion allocated by the Defense Ministry for military procurement in 2005 was embezzled by officials and suppliers. In a report completed in May, the Board of Supreme Audit blamed the theft on U.S.-appointed senior Defense Ministry officials, including a former defense minister. (World Tribune)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Editorial from Zaman Daily (Turkey): Who lost in Iraq? Despite objections from Sunni Arabs, the constitutional draft in Iraq has been approved. The draft will be put to a public vote on October 15. If two thirds of the people reject it in at least three of Iraq’s 18 provinces, then the draft will not be accepted. The new political structure paves the way for a federal state. Kirkuk is the most controversial subject and arguments and uncertainty about this important center continue. According to the general opinion, it is the Sunnis who have lost most in this process, but if you ask me everybody has lost. [...]

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Last-minute talks among Iraqi leaders on the text of a draft constitution have ended without making amendments and printing will start on Thursday, a senior member of the parliamentary drafting team said on Tuesday. "The talks have ended. We did not reach any agreement on making changes to the draft. It will be printed in the form it was read to the National Assembly last week," Bahaa al Araji told Reuters. "No changes will be made."

President Jalal Talabani of Iraq issued a bitter rhetorical broadside against other Arab countries Monday, saying they had insulted Iraq by not sending diplomats to Baghdad and by not sending condolence letters about the stampede last week in which nearly 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed. (IHT)

RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) conducted an exclusive interview with Sunni Arab drafting-committee member Salih al-Mutlaq in Baghdad on 4 September. Al-Mutlaq discussed the draft constitution, and contended that if certain articles were changed, he and other Sunni Arabs would support the draft when it goes to referendum on 15 October.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Iraqi politicians said Saturday that new talks were taking place on the text of the draft constitution, following widespread calls for unity after the deadly stampede which killed nearly 1,000 Shiite pilgrims. Bridging deep divisions between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish representatives over the proposed charter could help assuage rising sectarian tensions in the country, as grieving Shiites continued to mourn relatives lost in the tragedy. (Japan Today)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Charles Krauthammer: A sensible Iraqi constitution. I've never been a big fan of the Iraqi constitution project. Issues such as federalism and the role of Islam are simply too large and fundamental to be decided this early in Iraq's democratic evolution. It is more appropriately the work of years as Iraqis learn accommodation and tolerance and the other habits of self-government. I wrote two months ago that forcing a resolution of Iraq's cosmic dilemmas by some arbitrary date could serve only to exacerbate existing divisions. This has indeed happened. Nonetheless, the Iraqi constitution project is a fact. It has produced a document. It goes to referendum on Oct. 15. And all the lamentations and rending of garments over the text are highly overblown. [...] (Washington Post)

A week after the draft constitution was declared final, discreet talks were under way to refine language in a bid to win Sunni approval and ease fears of Iraq's Arab neighbors that the charter will loosen the country's ties to the Arab world, officials said Friday. As negotiators discussed possible changes, thousands of Shiite supporters and Sunni opponents of the document took to the streets Friday to express their views ahead of the decisive Oct. 15 referendum. [..] (AP)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Power Line: Haider Ajina sends us these poll results, which he has translated from today's edition of the Iraqi newspaper Alhayat: A poll taken by “The Iraqi center for national development & dialog”, which is headed by former Planning minister Mahdi Alhafith. Reveals 88% of Iraqis polled said they will participate in the next vote (for the constitution) on the 15th of October. 5% said they will not vote 6% had not decided yet. [...]

Sunday, August 28, 2005

IRAQI president Jalal Talabani has said Iraq's draft constitution is ready to be put to the vote in an October 15 referendum, ending weeks of tortuous negotiations. "The draft constitution is ready and will be presented to the Iraqi people, who are known for their intelligence, to give their verdict on October 15," Mr Talabani said at a ceremony overnight to mark the end of the drafting process. "There are objections from our Sunni Arab brothers ... but nobody can claim that they represent the whole spectrum of Sunni Arabs," said the president, who is a Kurd. He said the draft, when approved by the people, would become the "fundamental law" of the nation. "If the nation rejects it, we will write another one," said Mr Talabani. Iraq's parliament held a special session on the draft constitution but did not vote on it. (Daily Telegraph [UK])

Backgrounder: Twists and turns in making Iraq's constitution. A draft constitution of Iraq was signed by an overwhelming majority of the panel on Sunday. Here is a brief account of the twists and turns experienced in the making of the permanent constitution. [...] (XINHUA online)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Blogger Publius: It all comes down to federalism.

CNN: Iraq's three major groups -- Kurds, Shiite Arabs and Sunni Arabs -- continue to debate the proposed constitution, striving to win over critics by Sunday. But consensus has remained elusive since August 15, when legislators missed their first deadline to submit to the transitional national assembly a draft of laws to govern Iraq's new democracy. [...] Although one Sunni Arab official said he disliked the plan, the Sunnis continued to huddle over the suggestions. [...]

Blogger: Omar at Iraq The Model blogs about the Iraqi constitution.

Iraqi leaders have reached a deal in principle on a draft constitution, parliament's speaker said on Saturday, but no accord was clinched yet and a final decision would be clear only on Sunday. One Shi'ite faction in the government called it a historic day, but delegates from Iraq's Sunni minority could not be reached for comment and had been making deeply pessimistic statements hours before on the chances of an accord. Speaker Hajim al-Hassani said negotiators from the Shi'ite majority had proposed amendments to an existing draft to meet the demands of Sunni Arabs. (AP)

Friday, August 26, 2005

The speaker of Iraq's parliament announced a one-day extension early Friday in talks on the new constitution — a fourth attempt to win Sunni Arab approval. But he said that if no agreement is reached, the document would bypass parliament and be decided in an Oct. 15 referendum. Shiite leaders signaled they had lost patience with protracted negotiating and wanted to refer the draft approved by them and the Kurds last Monday to the electorate. With repeated missed deadlines and no sign of compromise, a process designed to bring the country's disparate ethnic, cultural and religious groups closer together appeared instead to be pushing them further apart. (AP)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Iraqi politicians tried to reach compromises with Sunni Arab leaders today on the country’s draft constitution. [...] Talks on the draft constitution resumed today as five Sunni Arabs on the drafting committee met with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and discussed points of disagreement such as federalism, according to a statement released by al-Jaafari’s office. The Sunnis gave al-Jaafari a list of unresolved issues, the statement added. Before the meeting one Sunni said he was confident that leaders could finish the document by the new deadline, but warned that serious issues needed to be addressed. “I expect that the constitution would be finished before Monday. Negotiations are still underway and everybody are determined to finish it before the deadline,” said Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni member of the constitutional committee. However, al-Mutlaq warned that serious differences remain. “I believe that there are some groups that have taken more than they deserve and want to pass the constitution quickly,” he said. “In order for this constitution to work, these groups that have taken more than what they deserve must abandon some of their demands.” (Ireland On-Line)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Iraqi politicians agreed Monday on a draft constitution but decided to put off two key issues - women's rights and whether Kurds might someday secede - so the document could be submitted to parliament by a midnight deadline, two Shiite officials said. (AP)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Reuters reports:

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Saturday that he hoped a draft constitution would be ready on Sunday. "If God is willing, tomorrow it will be ready," Talabani told a news conference.

Talabani said two key issues were still under discussion. "There are no obstacles but discussions on federalism in the south and the relation between religion and state," he said. Talabani said no issues would be postponed until later this year in order for the panel drafting the constitution to reach a self-imposed August 15 deadline for presenting the charter to parliament. Lawmakers have sent mixed signals on the talks on Saturday, with some saying they are close to clinching a deal and others pessimistic.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Blog closing down

A word from your editor:

This will be the last post on this blog. It was been a fantastic experience for me. I'm afraid that other projects are largely demanding my attention, and Iraqi politics seems to be coming along quite well.

Thanks to all my readers for their support.

Christian Science Monitor: Thorny issues loom for Iraq leaders. Breaking the deadlock over forming Iraq's interim government came down, in the end, to a simple compromise: Kurds dropped their immediate demand that the oil-rich city of Kirkuk be added to their autonomous section of Iraq, and Shiite Arabs said they wouldn't insist on dismantling the Kurds' peshmerga militia. The country's two main political powers have essentially deferred these and other difficult issues until a time when Iraq's politics may be calmer and the two sides may be closer. It's a position that many observers expected to have been reached within weeks of the election. But this was a compromise between radically different factions in a country where threats and the gun have long stood in for dialogue.

The Daily Times [Pakistan] editorial: Iraq has done well. The impasse that had gripped the Iraqi parliament on the issue of the presidency has been resolved. The new Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, is a Kurd, the first to become modern Iraq’s leader. Also, the first non-Arab leader of an Arab state. The two vice-presidents represent the other two sectarian factions in the country. Adel Abdul Mahdi, finance minister in the outgoing interim government, is Shia while Ghazi Yawar, a former president, is a Sunni tribal leader. As the parliament’s new speaker-elect, Hajem Al Hassani said after the vote: “This is the new Iraq — an Iraq that elects a Kurd to be president and an Arab former president as his deputy. What more could the world want from us?”[...]

Iraq is a step closer to its first democratically elected government in more than 50 years, after Ibrahim Jaafari was named as the country's prime minister. Mr Jaafari is a softly spoken doctor who fled into exile under Saddam Hussein and who leads Iraq's oldest Islamic party. He acknowledged that ruling Iraq would be a huge responsibility.

AP update:


Saddam's Old Foes Become New Iraqi Leaders. Cementing Iraq's first democratic government in 50 years, one of Saddam Hussein's most implacable enemies took his oath as president Thursday and quickly named another longtime foe of the ousted dictator to the powerful post of prime minister. The new government's main task will be to draft a permanent constitution and lay the groundwork for elections in December, although some worry that the two months of political wrangling taken up in forming the leadership hasn't left enough time. The swearing-in ceremony came just two days short of the second anniversary of Baghdad's fall to U.S.-led forces and underlined the growing power and cooperation of the Shiite Arab majority and Kurdish minority - groups that were long oppressed by Saddam's regime. There were stumbles, though. [...]

New Iraqi PM Long Opposed Saddam's Reign. Ibrahim al-Jaafari spent more than two decades as an exile trying to topple Saddam Hussein's government - with the close support of Iran and an Islamic militant group linked to terrorism. Now, as Iraq's new interim prime minister, he has asserted he is a moderate, even as some have questioned his ties to Iran and his work for Iraq's first Shiite Islamic political party - the Islamic Dawa Party - of which he is spokesman. Although al-Jaafari served in Dawa leadership positions, he has distanced himself from the group's attacks. But his history with the group - he first joined in 1968 - still raises eyebrows.

BBC News: Talabani election pleases press. Jalal Talabani's election as Iraq's new president inspires cautious optimism in the comment pages of Thursday's papers in Baghdad and elsewhere in the region. Many see the choice of Mr Talabani as an opportunity for Iraqis to cast long-standing ethnic differences aside. Turkish papers are also generally buoyed by the news, predicting that he could dampen Kurdish hopes of their own independent state.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Iraq's new parliament is due to select its three-man presidency council, which will in turn appoint a prime minister. Senior government sources said on Tuesday Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani would be nominated as president. Outgoing President Ghazi Yawer, a Sunni Arab, would be one vice-president and current Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shia, the other, sources said. [...] (BBC News)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Iraq's divided interim parliament has finally elected a speaker, clearing a major political hurdle on the way to forming a government. Casting secret ballots, the members chose Hajim al-Hassani, a Sunni Arab, as the speaker and picked a Shia Muslim and a Kurd as his deputies. More than two months have passed since Iraqis elected the national assembly. A session of the chamber fell apart on Tuesday as members argued over a suitable Sunni candidate. [...] (BBC News)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Iraqi National Assembly failed to choose a speaker Tuesday after arguments broke out among lawmakers and reporters were ordered to leave the session. Assembly members expressed outrage that no agreement had been reached after two sessions. "The Iraqi people who defied the security threats and voted -- what shall we tell them? What is the reason for this delay?" politician Hussein al-Sadr told Reuters. Al-Sadr is a member of the coalition led by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Eventually, the assembly's acting speaker ordered reporters out of the session and cut off a video feed from the proceedings. Members then huddled in a closed-door meeting. (CNN)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Shiite and Kurdish figures warned Thursday that talks on forming Iraq's next government could drag on another week, while Iraqi forces battled insurgents in their former stronghold of Fallujah. Hopes of clinching a government nearly two months after Iraq's epic election were dented as the election-winning Shiite political list pushed to reconvene the 275-member Parliament Saturday without consensus on a Cabinet. "Even if the Parliament convenes Saturday or Sunday, it may take another week to have a government," said Haidar al-Mussawi, a spokesman for Ahmed Chalabi, a leading member of the Shiite list, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). A Kurdish source said the delay stemmed in part from efforts to convince outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's list to join the government. (The Daily Star [Lebanon])

Ross Mackenzie: In Iraq, extraordinarily, the biggest change since Babylon. Perhaps four words - resolve, courage, sacrifice and extraordinary - best define the outcome of the elections in Iraq. The resolve of President Bush and the people of the United States, the courage and sacrifice of primarily the American military and the Iraqi people (as well as the post-Saddam Iraqi leadership), and the extraordinary electoral results. In the run-up to the election, many among the doubters and naysayers practically cheered for failure. They were all negativism, cynicism and gloom. Remember? From all the predictable sectors - the Old Media (which somewhere along the way redefined the terrorists as "insurgents"), Old Europe, even non-Iraqis Osama and Zarqawi) the unrelenting cries went up: [...] (

Scott Ritter: Hijacking Democracy in Iraq. The post-election ‘cooking’ of the results in Iraq all but guarantees that the Shi’a of Iraq will rally together to secure that which they believe is rightfully theirs. This journey of ‘historical self-realization’ may very well ignite the kind of violent backlash among the Shi’a majority in Iraq that the U.S. has avoided to date. It could also complicate whatever strategies the Bush administration may be trying to implement regarding Iraq’s neighbor to the east, Iran. But in any case, the American ‘cooking’ of the Iraqi election is, in the end, a defeat for democracy and the potential of democracy to effect real and meaningful change in the Middle East. The sad fact is that it is not so much that the people of the Middle East are incapable of democracy, but rather the United States is incapable of allowing genuine democracy to exist in the Middle East. (Guerrilla News Network)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The United Shiite Alliance, victorious in the Iraqi elections held on January 30, and the representatives of the Kurdish parties have begun to share the main ministries. (Zaman Online [Turkey])

Iraq’s parliament will convene by Saturday to elect a speaker and try to reach agreement on a government to end a political crisis in the country, politicians said. The assembly’s first working session will be held at the weekend after the Shiite and Kurdish blocs, who between them have the two-thirds majority needed to form a government, sign a declaration on the status of the oil city of Kirkuk and the role of Islam, they said. (Reuters via MSNBC)

Political poker in Baghdad. “The talks are being carried out smoothly and in some positive climate”, said Kurdish negotiator Kamal Fuad, noting that the Kurds and the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) were also meeting outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. But no politician wanted to predict when Iraq’s mosaic of Shiites, Kurds, Sunnites, Christians and Turkmens would unveil their government and the parliament would reconvene. The Shiite candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, told reporters it could take as long as two weeks A Shiite negotiator and senior member of Jaafari’s Dawa Party was optimistic that a deal could be struck by the end of the month. (Monday Morning)

The spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites urged political parties to speed up lagging talks to form a government, as US forces and rebels squared off in their biggest battle since the January 30 elections. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, quoted by a top Shiite politician, said Monday the slowness of Shiites and Kurds in completing talks to form a government over one-and-a-half months after their triumphs in the vote was affecting Iraqis’ lives. (Khaleej Times [UAE])

Jordan announced its top diplomat would return to Iraq only days after the neighboring countries withdrew their highest envoys amid heightened tensions and the US military reported yesterday that a Marine was killed in action in a strife-riven western province. (AP via Taipei Times [Taiwan])

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish powerbrokers woo Allawi. Shiite and Kurdish leaders said that Iraq's next government could be formed within a week as they courted Sunnis and outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi to join a coalition. (AFP via

Shiite and Kurdish officials reported progress Thursday in resolving disagreements over territorial issues and cabinet posts, but said they may need another week to put together Iraq's coalition government. Nearly two months after they braved death to vote, many Iraqis are growing frustrated over the slow pace of the talks. "These negotiations included many things, not just the Kurdish issues, but also regarding the shape of the Iraqi government," said interim Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd. (AP via

Mohammed A. R. Galadari: Iraq shows the way for region. The process has begun for the formation of a coalition government for Iraq, as per the agreement announced between the winning sides yesterday. See, dear readers, how things are progressing and how proper were the elections there. The prime minister and the president of the caretaker government that oversaw the election process-Iraq’s first tryst with democracy in several decades-are not the ones who tasted victory. Both Iyad Allawi and Ghazi Al Yawar have less reason to be cheerful, as they are not the major winners. New alignments and new leaders are in the making to lead Iraq. This shows impatience will not work in a democratic set up. Those who showed patience and wholeheartedly participated in the election are getting an opportunity to share power and lead the people. Those who boycotted the elections have lost out; at least for now. It might be that, by good sense, the winning side would involve them too in the governance. That’s how a nation can stand united and reconstruction made easy. (Khaleej Times)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Kurdish and Shiite politicians said Thursday they made headway in solving new disagreements in their deal to form a coalition government, nearly seven weeks after Iraqis took to the polls, but it remained unclear when that new government would be announced. The talks came after Iraqi legislators were sworn in Wednesday as members of the 275-seat National Assembly, vowing to uphold freedom and democracy two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Many of the new deputies wore traditional robes trimmed in gold, and mingled with austere Shiite clerics in black robes and turbans. Other men wore tan or gray suits, while nearly all the 85 women lawmakers wore headscarves. (AP)

Press gives Iraq parliament wary welcome. Papers in Iraq hail the inaugural session of the Iraqi parliament as a first step towards national unity, even though the failure to form a government made the gathering largely a formality. But one Baghdad paper voices its impatience with the horse-trading between the main Shia and Kurd parties over government posts. In the wider region there is cautious optimism for Iraq's future, although one Iranian commentator argues that the US will still be the dominant power. (BBC News)

Iraq's first freely elected National Assembly in more than a generation convened Wednesday, moments after a series of mortar rounds landed nearby, rattling windows and highlighting the long way the country has to go on the road to a stable, secure democracy. The meeting was largely ceremonial. After taking the oath of office, the 275 members of the assembly -- men wearing flowing robes, cleric's turbans and Western suits, while many women wore head scarves -- filed out of a borrowed auditorium without even deciding when to convene again. The assembly's most important task will be to write a constitution, but the members so far have been unable even to form a government to begin the job. The dominant Shi'ite Muslim coalition is still haggling with three Kurdish parties in the hopes of putting together the two-thirds majority necessary. (Detroit Free Press)

Iraq's house of new freedom, old tensions. IRAQ's new parliament opened to the boom of mortar fire and fiery debate from the floor over ethnic identity, then promptly closed again as the newly elected legislators returned to their endless backroom haggling over the make-up of the new government. The parties' failure to agree on a government meant there was little of the euphoria that marked the momentous elections of January 31. In fact, there was little for the 275 deputies to do but meet, declare the session open, listen to speeches from various dignitaries and take their oath of office. Yet even that simple schedule descended into farce after a squabble on the floor over whether the legislators should be made to swear the oath in Kurdish as well as Arabic – the last of several interjections on a nationalist theme from Kurdish deputies. (The Australian)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Iraq's new parliament has concluded its first meeting since the January election without reaching an agreement on a government line-up or electing a three-member presidential council and a speaker. The parliament ended its session after 90 minutes on Wednesday, without giving a date for when it would reconvene as political parties are locked in hard negotiations over a coalition deal to form a government. The Shia Islamic alliance that won 140 seats and the Kurdish coalition that came second with 75 seats are deadlocked over a government in negotiations that have dragged on for weeks. But rival blocs say they expect to reach an agreement within the next few days. [...] (al Jazeera)

AP updates:

Iraq's first freely elected parliament in half a century began its opening session Wednesday after a series of explosions targeted the gathering.

A short Summary box, and a less abbreviated What's Next for Iraq's Government.

International Herald Tribune: An enthusiasm for remaking Iraq. When Iraq's new Parliament met Wednesday for the first time, novice legislators like Hamdiya Najaf were making a political debut amid uncertainty and acrimony that have muted the heady joy of their January election. More than six weeks after millions of Iraqis risked their lives to vote, there was still no new government; the parties with the most seats, representing Shiite Arabs and Sunni Kurds, were still haggling over key posts and policies. The interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, the U.S.-backed steward of the appointed government that has ruled since last June, has been so thoroughly shut out of the talks that members of his Iraqi Alliance, the third-largest vote-getter, said they might refuse ministry posts and become an opposition party. [...]

BBC News: Iraq's new parliament is holding its inaugural session on Wednesday, with the main factions still unable to agree on a coalition government. Iraqi officials had hoped that a power-sharing deal would be struck before the parliament convened. However, more than six weeks after Iraq's first democratic elections, negotiations are still taking place. In the absence of a deal, the opening will be ceremonial. MPs will not chose a president and vice-president. Negotiators say they hope to reach agreement on a new government by the end of the month.

But hours earlier, CNN wrote this...

One day before the first meeting of Iraq's transitional National Assembly, representatives of major parties reached an agreement "in principle" on formation of a new government, officials said Tuesday. The agreement between Kurdish leaders and members of the United Iraqi Alliance includes the appointment of Jalal Talabani as president -- the first time a Kurd would hold such the post -- and of Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister, according to Dawa party official Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi. Negotiations continued into Tuesday night, and most party representatives are expected to sign the document Wednesday as the assembly holds its historic meeting Wednesday at 11 a.m. (3 a.m. ET). (CNN)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Talks between the Shiite and Kurdish blocs that won the most votes in Iraq's elections stalled yesterday, dimming their hopes of agreeing on a new government before Wednesday's debut session of the newly elected national assembly. A scheduled meeting between the Shiite Muslim-dominated United Iraqi Alliance and a coalition of Kurdish parties was postponed when the Kurds delayed their reply to a proposed power-sharing deal. (L.A. Times via Seattle Times)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Arabic News: Adnan Ali, one of the aides for Ibrahim al-Jaffari, the candidate for the next Iraqi prime minister, from the United Iraqi Coalition supported by the Shiite clergy Ayatullah Ali al-Seistani, announced reaching a common understanding agreement with the Kurds that will be signed tomorrow, Sunday. The Shiite and Kurdish lists on Friday announced that they eliminated the obstacle of the city of Karkouk which used to impede the formation of the new interim government and the convening of the national assembly ( parliament). The presidency of the Turkman council in Iraq, in Karkouk city, announced rejection to any bilateral agreement that the Turkmans are not a side to. [...] On the other hand, the leading figure in the Shiite list, Ali al-Dabbagh, said that the Kurds agreed to support the nomination of al-Jaafari to preside over the Cabinet, for the Shiite consent that the Kurdish Jalal al-Talibani will be the president of the Republic and another Kurdish figure to assume one of the political posts. [...]

A local [Warren, Mich., USA] man may have failed to get a seat in Iraq's new National Assembly, but he says the fact the election happened is a victory in itself. Hikmat Hakeem, of Warren, ran in Iraq's elections, but his party didn't perform well enough for him to be part of the 275-member assembly. Still, the 6-year-old former law professor could be chosen for Iraq's constitutional committee, which will help write the country's laws under the assembly's supervision, the Detroit Free Press reported Saturday. (AP via San Jose Mercury News)

Ghali Hassan: Iraq Elections And The Liberal Elites: A Response To Noam Chomsky. In a recent opinion piece, Naom Chomsky writes, "In Iraq, the January elections were successful and praiseworthy. However, the main success is being reported only marginally: The United States was compelled to allow them to take place. That is a real triumph, not of the bomb-throwers, but of non-violent resistance by the people, secular as well as Islamist, for whom Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani is a symbol" (Khaleej Times Online, 4 March 2005). Mr. Chomsky is either completely out of touch with reality in Iraq, or simply ignorant of the legitimate rights of the Iraqi people to self-determination. Firstly, the elections were a farce. The majority of the 14 million eligible Iraqis to vote have boycotted the elections. Since the invasion and Occupation of Iraq, Iraqis have protested and requested immediate free and fair elections, however, the Bush administration 'stifled, delayed, manipulated and otherwise thwarted the democratic aspiration of the Iraqi people'. The US administration turned down the idea of elections, claiming that technical problems would permit elections in two years at the earliest. Prominent Iraqi politicians and patriots, and UN officials who are familiar with the conditions there immediately refuted this argument. (See note [1] for detail). According to Joachim Guilliard of German Campaign against the Embargo on Iraq, "Another important element of the US strategy was that the elections took place under the 'Transitional Administrative Law (TAL)'" drawn up by pro-Israel US jurists, such as the 32-year old pro-Israel Noah Feldman of New York University. [...] (