25 October 2005

Iraq Constitution Referendum Results

UPDATE: Better Map here.

From CNN:

Authorities with the commission said 9.85 million people voted in the referendum, about 63 percent of registered voters. More than 78 percent of voters backed the constitution, officials said. . . . While passage required a simple majority, there was one obstacle the measure faced -- if two-thirds of the voters in at least three of 18 provinces had rejected it, the draft would have failed. . . .

Anbar overwhelmingly voted against the document, with a "no" vote of 97 percent. In Salaheddin province, 82 percent rejected the charter.

On Monday, election officials said the vote count from the northern province of Nineveh would help determine the outcome. There was a "no" vote in Nineveh, but it was 55 percent.

In Diyala province, which has a slight Sunni Arab majority, 51 percent of voters said "yes."

When questioned about extreme results, including the 99 percent "yes" vote in one Kurdish province, electoral officials said U.N. experts and Iraqi teams verified the results. . . .

New parliamentary elections are set for December 15.

A map showing the provinces of Iraq can be found here. Roughly speaking, the four provinces where support for the referendum on the Constitution was weakest make up the central band of provinces of Iraq stretching from its Western border with Syria to its Eastern border with Iran. To the North is mostly Iraqi Kurdistan (a map showing its contours can be found here). To the South are the geographically tiny province of Baghdad (which is likely also fairly divided) and the nine predominantly Shi'ite Southeastern provinces likely to make up an autonomous region of Sumer.

There is little doubt that the parliamentary elections will go forward and that any challenges to the validity of the result within "proper channels" will fail. The result is basically the 80-20 solution that diplomats have long talked about. The 80% of the country not made up of Sunni Arabs does appear to genuinely support, by a large majority, the new Iraqi Constitution, although low Sunni turnout and some amount of pressure to vote in favor of the constitution in less than perfectly free and fair election probably means that this support is less unanimous that it might seem.

It also seems that there is little to get in the way of the creation of a largely autonomous Kurdistan in the North, and a largely autonomous Shi'ite Sumer in the South following this election, pursuant to the terms of the new Constitution. One could easily imagine the new government asking coalition forces to largely withdraw from these autonomous areas, even if it feels it needs coalition support to continue to rule elsewhere, a request the coalition might be eager to comply with, given how unpopular the Iraq war is in the United States and Britain, and how strained the United States armed forces are for personnel as a result of this conflict. Any such partial withdrawal would likely be disproportionately British, since the British presence is predominantly in the Shi'ite South.

Likewise, there is little doubt that the leading Shi'ite and Kurdish parties will, following parliamentary elections, be able to shut out Sunni Arab participation in any ruling coalition in the country if the wish to do so. I suspect that many Sunni Arabs (although probably not as many as in the election that produced the body which drafted the constitution just adopted) will choose not to participate in the December 15 elections as they do not view the government it will create as legitimate.

It furthermore seems likely that the central government will be even acknowledged as a legitimate government in Sunni Arab dominated provinces like Anbar and Salaheddin only by force of arms, and that the insurgency is likely to be remain vigorous in provinces like Ninevah and Diyala, where the people are deeply divided over whether there should even be an Iraqi Constitution along the lines adopted.

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