Constitutional Cheating in Iraq

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The New York Times reports that Shiite and Kurdish leaders in Iraq are now trying to make sure that the draft constitution—opposed by the Sunnis—can’t possibly fail in its referendum this month:

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.

Now they just need to import a few Diebold machines and they’ll be all set. No, but seriously, this entire constitutional process has become near hopeless. Ostensibly, it was supposed to reconcile Shiite and Sunni communities and avoid deepening the ongoing sectarian war between the two, and that’s still what many American officials are aiming to do. In practice, however, the Shiites and Kurds have treated the constitution merely as a means of pressing the advantages they won in parliament after the January elections, and the United States has too often treated it as a means of de-legitimizing the insurgent movement (although Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has recently pushed to make the constitution more Sunni-friendly). Under the circumstances, then, it’s no surprise that something like this would happen and the whole reconciling communities thing would just get lost by the wayside.

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