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Sunni leader predicts 'no' vote in Iraq constitution referendum

[JURIST] Sunni Industry Minister Usama Abdul Aziz Al-Najafi said Friday that he expects a 'no' vote in the upcoming referendum [IECI Fact Sheet, PDF] on the proposed Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive], scheduled for Saturday. The prediction comes despite a last-minute deal [JURIST report] between Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni negotiators intended to win Sunni support. Under the agreement, a commission will be established to consider future amendments to the charter, which would then be voted on by the National Assembly and thereafter submitted to the public in another referendum. Al-Najafi said that the draft constitution still "doesn't represent the aspirations of all Iraqis" and that "the changes...were not enough to ratify the constitution." Roughly three quarters of the country's 15 million voters are Shiite and Kurds, who largely support the constitution, but the draft could be defeated if a two-thirds majority in three of the country's 18 provinces vote 'no.' In final preparation for Saturday's vote, Iraq has imposed a curfew [Reuters report], closed its borders and banned vehicles. Barricades have also been placed around polling centers in major cities as part of an effort to prevent violence from disrupting the referendum. Sunni Arab militants have recently renewed their campaign of violence in hopes of defeating the constitution that they fear will curtail their rights as a minority group. Reuters has more.

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