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Irak - Fredelig folkeafstemning om ny forfatning

IRAQ: High turnout in largely peaceful referendum on new constitution

IRINnews.org, 16. oktober 2005

Det første indtryk fra folkeafstemningen i Irak har været en høj valgdeltagelse og fredelige omstændigheder. Den boycot, som mange sunni-ledere havde opfordret til forekom ikke udbredt. Disse forhold gør i realiteten afstemningen til en succes - uanset resultatet udtaler en repræsentant for valgkommissionen.

Mange steder var der en højere valgdeltagelse end forventet - ©  IRIN
BAGHDAD, 16 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Iraqis voted in large numbers in relatively peaceful conditions on a new constitution designed to usher in an era of peace and democracy.

Officials of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) estimated on Sunday that 69 percent of Iraq’s 15.5 million registered voters had turned out to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the new constitution in Saturday’s referendum.

That was a dramatic improvement on the 58 percent turnout in last January’s parliamentary election, which was largely boycotted by Iraq’s large Sunni Arab minority.

Those who voted on Saturday defied calls for a boycott by many leaders of the Sunni Arab community, which is largely hostile to the new charter, and threats by Islamist insurgents to attack polling stations.

“We can say that the referendum was a success, whatever the outcome,” said Adel Hendawi, a senior official of the electoral commission. “An impressive turnout was recorded in many provinces of the country, including those which have been plagued by fighting in recent months.”

Ibrahim Khalid, a professor of political science, agreed. “I saw this referendum as a new and important exercise for Iraqis who for the first time had the possibility to choose their own rights. Whatever the final result, the process was free and fair,” he said.

Sunnis Arabs controlled the levers of power in Iraq under ousted president Saddam Hussein. Many of them feared their community would be sidelined by the new constitution, which grants autonomy to the Shia Muslim majority in southern Iraq and ethnic Kurds in the north.

Until this week, their community leaders had been solidly opposed to the document.

However, following last minute changes to the text of the draft constitution, it won the support of the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the largest political groups representing Sunni Arabs.

IECI officials said there had been a higher than expected turnout in two of the three provinces of Iraq where Sunnis form the majority of the population: Salaheddin and Nineveh.

However, there was a relatively low turnout in the Sunni-dominated western province of Anbar, where US forces launched two pre-referendum offensives against Islamist insurgents in early October.

Insurgent attacks failed to disrupt voting

The level of violence on polling day was much lower than during January’s parliamentary election.

Only four people were reported killed in insurgent attacks across the country, compared to more than 40 during the previous poll.

“We reported 47 attacks on voting centres and against our troops and Iraqi troops, but we can consider that this was a lot less than in the January elections when 347 attacks took place,” said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Boylan, a spokesman for the 150,000 US troops stationed in Iraq.

First results from the referendum were expected on Sunday, but IECI officials said it would probably take several days for the full picture to emerge.

Many war-weary Iraqis appear to have voted for the new constitution, even if they did not fully understand it or agree with the new federal structure which it imposes on Iraq.

“I voted today with happiness and patriotism in my heart, “said Hussein al-Ala’a, a 45-year-old teacher, who strolled on foot to his local polling station in Baghdad, accompanied by his wife and three children.

“I am tired of seeing innocent people dying every day and children suffering from disease and growing hungry due to constant fighting everywhere,” he said.

“Perhaps for many people this constitution means the introduction of bad laws, but it is better than what we are living through now and at least we will have a reference point for our rights and regulations,” Ala’a said.

However, Lina al-Kubaissy, 32, said she had voted against the new constitution, believing that approval of the charter would simply extend the US military presence in Iraq and intensify the violent backlash which it has provoked since US-led forces invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Like many other Sunni Arabs in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, 60 km west of Baghdad, she also disliked many of provisions of the new constitution.

“I voted ‘no’ against the draft constitution because it means a setback for women’s rights and the partition of my country into small pieces, al -Kubaissy said.

“Worse still, the country will be unequally divided, with some getting more and others less,” she added, alluding to the fact that most of Iraq’s oil comes from the Shia south and Kurdish north.

Despite threats by the Islamist insurgents to disrupt the referendum vote, preliminary estimates by the IECI showed that around 5,700 of the 6,000 planned polling stations throughout Iraq had managed to open.

Carina Perelli, the head of a UN tecnhical assistance team which helped the Iraqi government organise the referendum, said the vote had gone smoothly.

"The process has gone smoothly and well from a technical point of view," Reuters quoted Perelli as saying. "Overall, if you compare it to January, it has been incredibly peaceful," she added.

But UN Secretary General Kofi Annan praised the courage of those who had turned out to vote.

“For the second time this year, the people of Iraq have braved difficult conditions and the threat of violence to exercise their vote,” Annan’s official spokesman said in a statement.

The referendum had provided “an important opportunity for the Iraqi people to express their political views,” he added.

Even if the new constitution is approved, as expected, by a majority of voters, it can still be blocked by a two thirds “no” vote in three of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

This provision was introduced to give Sunni Arabs the possibility of defeating the new constitution, even though the only account for 15 to 20 percent of Iraq’s 26 million population.

Whatever the final result, one positive consequence of the referendum is that it has promoted a free and civilized debate among all Iraqis about the direction their country should take in the future.

“I made a bet with a friend that the constitution will be approved,” said Salah Obeidi, a 24-year-old medical student. “I’m Shia and he is Sunni, but the important thing is that we can discuss the issue openly between us without fearing that we will get into trouble for doing so,” he added.

The vote on the new constitution took place three years to the day after a referendum organized by Saddam Hussein on 15 October 2002 to decide whether he should remain in power for a further seven years

According to the official result of that poll, Saddam Hussein’s continued leadership of the nation was endorsed by a 100 percent yes vote.

The authoritarian leader was deposed by a US-led invasion in April 2003 after ruling Iraq with an iron hand for 24 years.

He was captured eight months later and will go on trial for war crimes in Baghdad on 19 October.

The first sample charge against Saddam Hussein is responsibility for the murder of 143 Shia civilians from the village of Dujail north of Baghdad in 1982.

These people were executed after a brief show trial in reprisal for an assassination attempt against the then head of state. A further 1,500 inhabitants of the village were imprisoned for several years without charge.

© IRIN - This article appeared originally on IRIN News.org and is published by engelund.dk according a general agreement. To view the original article, please click here.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is a project of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]


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Opdateret d. 16.10.2005