Thursday, September 08, 2005

Meanwhile Progress Continues As Iraq's Sunnis Register to Vote in Droves

One of the major reasons for our efforts in Iraq was to change the dynamics of the Arab world by introducing democracy in one of its most significant states, Iraq. Even though Katrina is on everyone’s minds, it is hard to understand why the Washington Post would bury this story on page 24. The new surge in registrations deals a terrific defeat to the Zarqawi terror network, which has repeatedly warned of their intent to target anyone who participates in democracy. Even if the Sunnis manage to vote down the new Iraqi constitution and force a delay in the whole process, they are now voting with ballots, not bullets, and the terrorists cannot win if we persevere.

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Bassam Sebti
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 8, 2005; A24

“BAGHDAD, Sept. 7 -- Voter registration soared in some Sunni Arab parts of Iraq as Sunnis mobilized to try to vote down a draft constitution they believe will divide the country, according to figures released Wednesday at the close of registration for the Oct. 15 referendum.

The results of the Sunni registration campaign came on a day of violence in the predominantly Shiite south. Local officials in Basra, the largest city in the region, said a car bombing killed 16 people, including at least two children, news agencies reported.

A roadside bombing in Basra earlier in the day killed four American security contractors who were in the lead vehicle of a convoy of U.S. diplomatic officials. No one else was injured, an official said. While political tensions have been high in Basra, bombings have been rare.

The surge in voter registration in the heavily Sunni west signaled the minority's belated entry into the country's political process. Most Sunnis stood on the sidelines of the Jan. 30 national elections that seated the transitional government, which was charged with drafting the constitution. As a result, Sunnis were left with diminished political leverage in negotiations over the document.

This time, "we registered to defeat the constitution," said Khalid Jubouri, a guard at a government ministry in Fallujah, a city in the volatile western province of Anbar. "This is considered fighting by word and thought. We are optimistic about the battle, and we will win it eventually."

Registration in Anbar swelled from a tiny percentage of eligible adults in January to nearly 85 percent, said Muhammed Ibrahim, the director of voter registration centers in the province.

Ibrahim said about 600,000 of the province's 715,000 eligible adults registered, despite pledges from al Qaeda in Iraq, an insurgent group led by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian, that anyone who took part in the voting would become a target for killing.

"It is a big number we didn't expect given the security situation in the province," Ibrahim said. "It is a great number."”

I thought you might also like to see a related piece from an Iraqi website:

IRAQ THE MODEL, September 7, 2005

In order to keep you updated on the constitutional process in Iraq, I translated this report from Baghdad's Al-Mashriq newspaper:
Maryam Arrayis (CDC member) told Al-Mashriq that there will be minor changes to the current draft before sending it to the UN before this weekend.
Ms. Arrayis stressed that the changes are minor and do not change the essence of the constitution.

She said that the expected changes will relate to the issues of the role of Iraq in the Arab league and the way of handling the resources by the provinces/federal states and the central government and deciding who's got the final word in case of differences. Regarding the 2nd point, Arrayis said that the Sheat block is in favor of giving the central government a bigger role since they consider this issue "sovereignty-related".

On the other hands, the Kurdish block had a suggestion to reduce the powers of the prime minister by assigning two deputies and granting them the right of the veto, this suggestion wasn't welcomed by the Sheat block that refused stepping on the authorities of the prime minister building their discussion on the fact that the prime minister himself is the one who appoints the deputies and gives them their authorities.

It is planned to get all this done with by this weekend and then the process of printing 5 million copies of the document will begin; those copies shall be distributed to Iraqi families through food ration distributors.

Arrayis also criticized the negative attitude of the Arab League towards Iraq and she condemned the interference in Iraq's internal and political affairs while most Arab countries didn't show sympathy or provided help after the tragedy of the bridge stampede in Baghdad and Arrayis commended what President Talbani said about exchanging diplomatic representation with Arab countries when he played down the significance of having Arab embassies in Baghdad "we're not going to beg for embassies and we're not going to starve if Arab countries refused sending their ambassadors…" said Talbani on a previous statement last week.

It's worth mentioning that the process of registering the voters has ended and there will be an extra million voter this time with a total of over 15.5 million voters. In Anbar province around 50,000 voters registered their names in the voter's lists in addition to the names that already exist.”

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