FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iraq Approves Constitution, Despite Sunnis

by PATRICK COCKBURN

in Baghdad

A majority of Iraqis have voted for the new federal constitution, which will divide the country into three regions and weaken central government.

The results, released by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, show that the Sunni Arabs largely voted against the constitution while the Shia and Kurds voted in favour. Overall, 78 per cent of Iraqis voted “yes” and 21 per cent voted “no”.

The Sunni, though only 20 per cent of the population, could still have defeated the referendum if two-thirds of voters in three provinces had voted no. The commission said yesterday that Nineveh–the one province that Sunnis opposed to the constitution had to win decisively–had voted against the constitution, but only by 55 per cent of the votes.

Anbar and Salahudin had earlier overwhelmingly rejected the constitution, with 97 per cent and 82 per cent voting against it respectively.

The United States and Britain as well as the Iraqi government will hope that the outcome will not be seen as a rebuff to the Sunnis, driving them into the arms of the resistance. Last-minute changes to the constitution allow a newly elected National Assembly to amend it by a majority vote next year, though the amendments will have to be voted on in a new referendum and can be vetoed once again by three provinces voting with two-thirds majorities against.

The constitution envisages a federal state in which Kurds and Shias will have important powers and the central government will be weakened. The Kurds will be able to maintain their own army in northern Iraq, local law will override federal law when the two are in conflict and oil developments will come under regional control. Existing oilfields will continue to be under the central government.

Many Sunnis see the constitution as, in effect, marking the break-up of Iraq. But it is unclear how far it will be implemented in the country outside Kurdistan–where the Kurds are already in control. They have no intention of giving up Kirkuk or lands from which they were driven under Saddam Hussein. Many Sunnis will claim that the result of the referendum was fixed but the commission said that it found no cases of violations that would have significantly affected the result. The result in Nineveh was uncertain because there are no clear figures for the breakdown between Sunni Arab, Kurd, Turkoman and Christian in the province.

Mosul itself is mostly Sunni Muslim but it is also a stronghold of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which at the last moment backed the constitution when concessions were made on amending it.

Iraq will now move towards an election on 15 December in which the Sunni Arabs, unlike in the election in January, are likely to participate. But the victors will still be the Kurds and the Shia, which together make up the present government. Although the Kurds are personally hostile to the government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Prime Minister, they are determined to maintain the Kurdish-Shia alliance. They accuse Mr al-Jaafari of breaking pledges.

The referendum is unlikely to have much impact on the insurgency, which has sufficient support to continue regardless of developments in constitutional politics. On the other hand, the Sunni leadership is even further divided, with part of it wanting to boycott the referendum, some wanting to support the constitution and a majority against but wanting to vote it down.

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Honduras Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sandes Must Demand Answers
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Gilbert Mercier
Donald Trump: Caligula of the Lowest Common Denominator Empire?
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Robert Dodge
On President Obama’s Hiroshima Visit
Andrew Moss
Bridge to Wellbeing?
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail