No vote on revised Iraq constitution draft; Sunnis object, assembly adjourns
Bernard Hibbitts at 8:50 AM ET
[JURIST] A revised draft of the Iraqi constitution [pre-revision draft in English; JURIST news archive] was presented and read out to Iraq's National Assembly Sunday, but continuing Sunni objections [AP report] to the charter's stance on federalism, de-Baathification and other sensitive issues precluded a vote on the document and the Assembly adjourned without formally approving it. The Assembly speaker, a Sunni, was not in the chair during the session; his Shiite deputy said he agreed with the changes but had "other appointments." The lack of Assembly approval and the disaffection of the Sunnis - the large minority group that dominated the regime of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and now drives much of the insurgency in the country - puts the proposed charter under a significant legal and political cloud. Iraqi officials insisted late last week in the midst of last-minute negotiations that Assembly ratification of the draft was not formally required [JURIST report] as long as the Assembly had received the written document under the terms of the country's Transitional Administrative Law [text], but most observers had assumed that an Assembly vote would be taken. The draft will now go before Iraqis for ratification or rejection in a national referendum to be held on or near October 15. Senior Sunnis have already vowed to campaign against approval of the US-backed instrument [Reuters report]. Shiite and Kurd members of the Iraqi constitutional drafting committee [official website, English version] gathered earlier to sign the draft constitution; top Sunni negotiators, however, refused to participate in the signing ceremony. Reuters has more on the Assembly meeting; AP reports on the adjournment. From Baghdad, the Iraq the Model weblog reports on the Assembly's constitutional proceedings Sunday as covered on Iraqi and Arab TV.
9:10 AM ET - AP is reporting that Sunni negotiators have appealed to the United Nations and the Arab League to intervene in the Iraqi constitutional process.
11:45 AM ET - Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said the Sunnis
...face difficult choices, a lot of pressure. But it is time for them, for the interests of their people, to join the political process. Not everyone loves every article of this document. Not everyone is totally satisfied. But there is enough in this constitution that meets the basic needs of all communities and for Iraq to move forward. But I do expect then that the terrorists and extremists will try their best to intimidate people, to prevent them-- those who support the constitution from voting and to encourage opposition to this draft. Read the full text of the Khalilzad interview.
1:18 PM ET - President Bush, speaking to reporters Sunday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said that the Sunnis were within their rights to disagree with provisions of the constitution, but praised the draft document as containing "far-reaching protections for fundamental human freedoms including religion, assembly, conscience and expression." He nonetheless warned of a likely increase in violence in the countdown to the constitutional referendum: "We can expect...atrocitices to increase in the coming months because the enemy knows that its greatest defeat lies in the expression of free people in freely enacted laws and at the ballot box." Last week the Pentagon announced it would send 1500 more elite troops to Iraq [Reuters report] to help with security in advance of the October poll, and another scheduled for December to elect members of a re-constituted National Assembly. Reuters has more.
2:25 PM ET - President Bush also said in his remarks:
There have been disagreements amongst the Iraqis about this particular constitution. Of course there's disagreements. We're watching a political process unfold, a process that has encouraged debate and compromise; a constitution that was written in a -- in a society in which people recognize that -- that there had to be give and take. A full transcript is now online from the White House.
I want our folks to remember our own constitution was not unanimously received. Some delegates at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 refused to sign it, and the draft was vigorously debated in every state, and the outcome was not assured until all the votes were counted.
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