More on the wildly successful Iraqi referendum

I’m more optimistic about Iraq right now than I have ever been in my entire life. That’s not an exaggeration.

But, as many will be quick to point out, all is not peaches. And even good things like this weekend’s successful constitutional referendum are not without risks. And many will be quick to point that out, despite a long history of inaccurate naysaying, as well.

First of all, the story I linked to earlier has this subheading: Charter OKd in key regions despite high Sunni turnout; Bush hails process. Here’s the first sentence of the story (which has changed since I linked this morning):

Iraq’s constitution seemed assured of passage Sunday despite strong opposition from Sunni Arabs, who voted in surprisingly high numbers in an effort to stop it.

Then there’s news on five American soldiers who were killed, and reports of what President Bush and Secretary of State Rice had to say about the referendum. Then it returns to the Sunnis:

Rejection appeared highly unlikely after initial vote counts showed that a majority supported the constitution in two of the four provinces Sunni Arab opponents were relying on to defeat it.

So far, we’ve established that Sunnis voted in order to defeat the charter and identified the key provinces where they hoped to do so, but we’ve also revealed that all is not well in Rejectionland.

Opponents needed to get a two-thirds “no” vote in three of those provinces. They may have reached the threshold in Anbar and Salahuddin, but Diyala and Ninevah provinces appeared to have supported the document by a wide margin.

The latter three have Sunni majorities but also powerful Shiite and Kurdish communities, which made them focal points for the political battle.

In Diyala, 70 percent supported the referendum, 20 percent opposed it and 10 percent of ballots were rejected as irregular, said Adil Abdel-Latif, the head of the election commission in Diyala. The result came from a first count of the approximately 400,000 votes cast.

At least one more count was being conducted to confirm the votes, which would then be sent to Baghdad, where results from all provinces are being collected for final confirmation.

According to a vote count from 260 of Ninevah’s 300 polling stations, about 300,000 people supported the constitution and 80,000 opposed it, said Samira Mohammed, spokeswoman for the election commission in the province’s capital, Mosul.

Ballots from the remaining 40 stations still had to be counted, but it would be virtually impossible to get the two-thirds “no” that Sunni opponents would need.

Frank Warner notes Ninevah province appears to have put Iraq Constitution over the top.

A reader writes:

And yet, the headline is DESPITE HIGH SUNNI TURNOUT

Heaven forbid they say INCLUDING SUNNI BACKING IN KEY AREAS, or something accurate like that.

It’s their tale. Let them tell it how they want to. They’re becoming more and more transparent.

So, if these numbers are accurate, the Sunnis never even had a chance to block the charter’s adoption. But we’re sure to hear about how disaffected Sunnis may not buy into the fact that their ‘no’ vote wasn’t enough to overturn the ‘yes’ votes of many others. How soon will we hear this? Less than two dozen paragraphs later.

Now the question is whether Sunnis will accept the passage of a constitution despite a significant “no” vote from their community. While moderates could take a more active role in politics, hard-liners could turn to the insurgency, deciding that violence is the only hope for retaining influence.

It’s important to note this, because we will be told in the very near future that these “hardliners” have legitimate grievances and that the fact that this minority feels left out illustrates what’s wrong with the new Iraqi government.

Think about that for a moment. One person’s vote not carrying more weight than another person’s vote is going to be what’s wrong with the new Iraqi government. We’re going to be told this by people who believe it, and whose preferred way of life will be threatened by the fact that one Sunni’s vote is not worth more than one Shiite’s or one Kurd’s vote. To many of those people, the fact that 20% of Iraq is not on equal footing (at the very least) with the other 80% will be a problem. The fact that the overwhelming majority of the violence and destruction in Iraq will be caused by that same 20% will not lessen the belief that they are in the right. In fact, it will strengthen it in many circles, as the insurgents are held by some to the the freedom fighters in Iraq’s civil war.

Finally, the article ends with a note that Shiites didn’t participate in anything approaching the numbers that took part in January’s elections:

The lower participation may have been out of belief that success was a sure bet or because of disillusionment with Iraq’s Shiite leadership, which has been in power since April with little easing of numerous infrastructure problems.

“Why should I care? Nothing has changed since we have elected this government: no security, no electricity, no water,” said Saad Ibrahim, a Shiite resident of Baghdad’s Karrada district. “The constitution will not change that. The main issue is not getting this constitution passed, but how to stop terrorism.”

This makes sense. If your people don’t do what you expect them to, vote for other people. The way this is tacked on at the end, it might give one the impression that this attitude is troubling. In fact, it’s a sign that Iraqis “get it” far better than naysayers claimed Arabs were capable of.

Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking of course, that one segment of of American voters were unhappy with their elected officials and began to distance themselves a bit from their representatives. Republican voters, for instance. And let’s just say that those voters decided that their people weren’t getting things done. Some refused to vote out of disgust. The rest split their vote between incumbents and new blood. Would the press suggest that this was a sign of trouble for American democracy?

The Shiite disaffection in some circles for their elected officials leads into my next point, illustrated by this Cox & Forkum cartoon:


The meddling of Iran, especially in the Shiite south, is indeed troubling. But Regime Change Iran notes a message on the BAZTAB web site:

This regime-run site in this report explicitly demanded that the Islamic Republic cease and desist from further meddling in the internal issues of Iraq and wrote: “To establish our aims in Iraq is a very difficult and labor-intensive process; we should not act in a way such that in a few years from now we would end up regretting those choices and be left wondering how we lost Iraq as well.

They apparently feel that efforts may backfire in the long run with the Iraqi people. As the erstwhile Instapundit Glenn Reynolds points out today on

Heh. They don’t know the half of it.



  1. Good points, Murdoc. Except in Fallujah and Tikrit, did the Sunni Arabs vote overwhelmingly to defeat the Constitution? We don’t know that yet, but half the news stories and headlines say it. By the way, let’s put a plug in for a Nobel Peace Prize to Sunni Arab democrats Mohsen Abdel Hamid and Tareq al-Hashemi. These two men called for Sunni backing of the Constitution, and were threatened with death for their courageous leadership.

  2. This is why you will never be an AP reporter Murdoc. You forgot to mention something like ‘all Iraqi’s hate Americans’, or ‘the election went well ‘despite’ Americans occupying the land.’ Great post. I agree with your sentiments about being more hopeful for Iraq than ever before. It is my opinion that things are cleaning up quickly now.

  3. December is pretty much going to be the make or break methinks. The Sunnis will hopefully conclude, ‘okay, we lost, but we had an impact, and if we want to protect our interests we must make sure to elect as many of our own people as possible,’ and show up in high numbers again. If they on the other hand turn surly and walk away, we’re in deep doo-doo for the long run and may have to rethink a lot of things. A lot, too, is going to depend on how hard the Shia and Kurds work to show good faith toward the Sunnis. Honestly, they’ve worked *really* hard to do that so I am very hopeful they’ll continue.