October 3, 2005

The Iraqi constitution can't fail.

Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces.

The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds will both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil....

Other Shiite members of the assembly defended their action. They said that if only people who came to the polls were counted in the referendum, insurgent attacks could frighten away so many voters that the constitution could be rejected on the basis of a small, unrepresentative sample of voters.
Isn't it a clever disincentive to violence? Preventing voting undercuts the cause of the very people who were motivated to prevent voting. Given the reality of the threat, why isn't this incentive justified to allow people to vote?
The legal passage in question states: "The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of voters in three or more governorates do not reject it."

In their vote on Sunday, the Shiite and Kurdish members interpreted the law as follows: the constitution will pass if a majority of ballots are cast for it; it will fail if two-thirds of registered voters in three or more provinces vote against it. In other words, the lawmakers designated two different meanings for the word "voters" in one passage. "I think it's a double standard, and it's unfair," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish assembly member who, like many other lawmakers, said he had not been present during the vote and only learned of it afterward. "When it's in your favor, you say 'voters.' When it's not in your favor you say 'eligible voters.' "
It is awfully hard to support the interpretation. I wonder if the theory of "Active Liberty" would help.


Eli Blake said...

Of course it won't fail. An article on MSNBC on Augst 26 makes it clear why this is so:

Sadoun Zubaydi, a Sunni member of the drafting committee, put it this way, placing blame squarely where it is due:

“Bush’s hypocrisy is huge — in January he wouldn’t allow a postponement of parliamentary elections to allow all groups to prepare properly because he was trying to sugarcoat everything that happens here for his domestic audience,” Zubaydi said.

“Now, he’s calling the Shiites and issuing instructions that they should not ignore the group that was marginalized in those defective elections. ... To the last minute, this supposedly Iraqi process is being dictated by the U.S. government.”

The Bush administration was so set on sticking to a schedule last January that they chose to run elections when much of the country (the Sunni part in particular) was not safe for people to vote. So, they didn't vote. Not surprisingly, the Shiites and Kurds who lived in peaceful areas and therefore dominated the government elected then created a Constitution that gives them what amounts to autonomy. So now, it still is not safe for people to vote in much of Iraq (honestly, do you believe there will be many people showing up to vote in Ramadi? You vote there, you get shot). Of course you would have a 'small sample' of these regions-- the sample of people who live where the army will be that day. So the Constitution will succeed by default.

And one more question: The Constitution establishes Sharia (Islamic Law) in civil courts, much like Iran. Women will have LESS rights in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody than they had under the brutal, but secular, regime of Saddam Hussein. The government is pretty certain to be favorable mainly to Tehran. And if you think back to the 1980's, we favored Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war
because we thought that an Iranian style government in Iraq was worse than Saddam. So now it's better?

Tell me again, WHY we have sacrificed the lives of 1900 American soldiers.

I, however, will be happy that the Constitution passes (whatever that leads to) because it will hasten the day when we can GET OUT!

Sloanasaurus said...

Eli blake, this sounds like venomous paleo-propaganda.

Tell me....Where in the Iraq Constitution does it establish Islamic Law in civil courts? Where? Where? And exactly how do women have less rights? Point this out for me? The Iraqi Constitution is quite clear that Judges are selected in a manner chosen by the Parliament. This means that the democracy trumps all. Compare and contrast this to the Iranian constitution which requires the approval of the "Guardian Council" for any law passed by the parliament and for pretty much everything else. As you guessed, the Guardian Council is not elected...it's members are selected by itself. Read the two documents and you will clearly see the difference.

I don't understand the argument about women having less rights. Under Saddam you could be arrested and executed without trial (women were arressted, raped and executed). Now according to the critics, women may have less rights??? Where? How?

I bet you haven't read either document.

Also, those who somehow think that the Shia in Iraq are arm in arm with the Shia in Iran have no knowledge or appreciation of history.

Consider the following facts:

Most of the Shia in Iran are of persian ethnicity. Most of the Shia in Iraq are arabs.

Most of the shia in Iran speak Farsi or other Central asian languages. Most of the Shia in Iraq speak Arabic.

The Persians in Iran are ethincally a mountainous people. The Arabs in Iraq evolved in arid plains and farming regions.

The last time Persia and Iraq were ruled by the same government was in the 14th century under the sons of Genghis Khan.

Many of the Arab Shia tribes actually only converted recently to Shia. Many did so because of problems with the Ottoman overlords.

Just because a few Iraqi dissidents spent time in Iran (to escape Saddam) doesn't mean they want to create Iran in Iraq (consider the time Lenin or Kolmeini spent outside their home)

Eli Blake said...


Seems you have been drinking a bit too much of the spin juice.

As a matter of fact, I have had the opportunity to read at least parts of the draft of the Iraqi constitution (I assume translated correctly). You can go to here (you must be a registered member of the New York Times). And whether the judges are chosen by parliament or not, it makes it plain that Sharia will be the primary source of law. This is the exact opposite of Turkey, when early in its development into a republic, Attaturk considered Islam a societal threat and so insisted on secular law with no place for Islamic law. So it wouldn't matter what judges the parliament picks, they have to uphold the law that is given.

Furthermore, as to the parliament, the largest party is headed by one of those long term exiles in Iran, Ibrahim al-Jaawari. He and other Shiites have much stronger ties to Iran than you might wish to believe. Every intelligence report on the subject pretty much confirms this. In fact, Iran has pretty much gotten what they want in Iraq-- a friendly, mostly pro-Tehran government without having to shed a drop of blood or spend a cent.

You may find this article to be an eye-opener.

Like I said before though, I hope that this constitution (however it turns out) gives President Bush an opportunity to LEAVE and that he takes it. Then if the Iraqis want to screw up their country some more, they can do it without our 'assistance.'

Peter cockle said...

From New Zealand. Yes, it can't fail, because the maths are wrong.
At best an 80% turnout can be expected. 0.8 * .65 = about 80% of those eligibble to vote.
Should the constition be voted down if say 75% of the voters said NO.
That would be 75% * 80% = 56% of those eligible to vote.

Ann Althouse said...

Eli: "It makes it plain that Sharia will be the primary source of law." You're quite wrong! Also, you like to the August 23d draft, but we've read that there has been a lot of rewriting.

Peter: Two thirds of those eligible to vote are needed to reject. Turnout is irrelevant for rejection under the rules as now interpreted.

Sloanasaurus said...

Eli I believe that the Constitution says that Sharia is a source of law. You may well know that Constitutions do not long last the rhetoric about rights that are written down in them (i.e. the Soviet Constitution). What really matters is "who decides." The Iranian Constitution is quite clear that the Guardian Council, an unelected council of ayatollahs, decides. The Iraq Constitution is quite clear that the elected Parliament decides. Sometimes the structure of government that is set up by a Constitution is more important than the rights it purports to protect.

Further I reject the argument the liberalism is required for democracy. In my opnion, democracy ultimately leads to liberalism.

Harkonnendog said...

"Isn't it a clever disincentive to violence? Preventing voting undercuts the cause of the very people who were motivated to prevent voting."

That is a brilliant maneuver! The naysayers constantly talk about how the US will fail militarily becaue of condition X, and then the US military adapts and overcomes, and the naysayers say they will fail because of condition Y, and the US military adapts and overcomes, and so on and so on. It is nice to see this happening politically too!

XWL said...

This should be a lesson for our own political system, I believe that apportionment should be based on turn-out rather than overall population.

Have each state's allocation of Congress critters be determined by the total votes cast in every other presidential election rather than on the decadal census.

Make increased political participation the vested interest of each state and I am sure you will see better efforts at getting everyone eligible involved in the system.

And regardless of what happens in the Iraqi elections there will be the defeatist amongst us who will wail about yet another clear setback and Bush regime failure.