Saturday, October 15, 2005

The vote count for the Iraqi referendum is underway, the New York Times reporting an “insufficient” number of Sunni dissatisfaction to shoot down the draft constitution. (Above: Officials surveying transparent ballot boxes.) The final result is yet to be determined. The Times noted that “scattered attacks on polling sites and troops around the country.” As opposed to the January elections, reports the BBC, the vote inspired “little of the bustle and excitement” among the Kurds.

openDemocracy contributor Zaid Al-Ali expressed skepticism, asking: “After all the Iraqi people have been through … will the constitution bring peace, prosperity and basic services, or a further disintegration of the state coupled with more pain and misery?”

Citing a story in the Washington Post, Al-Ali fears Sunni opposition to the idea of cantoning Iraq into oil-rich Kurd and Shi'a regions and, moreover, Iraqis disenfranchisement from the constitutional convention process within the Green Zone while largely being denied “basic services” without, could all lead to the suffering of all.

“A Baghdad radio commentator recently asked an Iraqi caller whether he intended to vote in the 15 October referendum on the draft constitution for the country,” he writes. “The caller answered: ‘if I do, will I get some electricity?’”

British journalist George Monbiot also weighed in. Referring to the text of the draft constitution (available both here and here), he writes that the Zone “deliberations were back-to-front. First the members of the constitutional committee … argue over every dot and comma, then they present the whole thing (25 pages in English translation) to the people for a yes or no answer.”

“The question and the answer are meaningless,” he adds, because it would be impossible to make a real choice on an entire document without considering the parts of it one agrees with and those that are disagreed with. “What then does yes or no mean?”

More recently, Slate commentator Fred Kaplan, who had suggested that a “no” vote on the constitution would be for the best, now sees “a sliver of a hope” that it may “mark a small step toward a stable, somewhat democratic government after all.” Here's the consensus: Though there may be a significant chance that the referendum may eventually lead toward disintegration and civil war, at least it will have the proper vestiges of a democratic state.

Alright, then. But is it fair to ask whether any of this will mean anything for literally powerless Iraqis to assert control over their country if a constitutional regime will only result in sectarian chaos with 140,000 Americans in the crossfire?

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