Iraqi constitutional referendum, 2005

The electorate of Iraq went to the polls on 15 October 2005 to vote in a referendum on whether or not to ratify the proposed constitution of Iraq. After 10 days of counting votes, the country's electoral commission announced that the constitution had been approved by a wide margin nationwide. A number of critics allege massive irregularities, especially in the crucial province of Ninevah, which was widely expected to provide the third (and deciding) "no" vote.

Background and campaign

Article 61 of Iraq's Interim Constitution, in effect since 28 June 2004, laid down the rules for the approval of the proposed permanent constitution. The proposed constitution would have been approved in the referendum if both a majority of voters nationwide voted "yes" and there were no more than 2 of the country's 18 governorates where two-thirds of the voters voted "no." On 2 October 2005, the National Assembly weakened the second requirement such that it would only fail to be fulfilled if two-thirds of "registered" voters — rather than actual voters — in three governorates voted "no." Opponents of the Draft Constitution reacted angrily to this reinterpretation of Article 61 of the Interim Constitution. Critics had also pointed out that such an interpretation reads the term "voter" differently in both requirements; the first requirement is still simply fulfilled if a majority of actual voters nationwide votes yes. After much international criticism, the decision was reversed on 5 October.

The possibility of veto by supermajorities of three or more governorates was originally written into the interim constitution to ensure that the permanent constitution would be acceptable to Iraq's Kurdish minority. However, support for the constitution was weakest among Iraq's Sunni Arab community, and some observers thought that the Sunni vote would result in the constitution's rejection. While the exact ethnic distribution of the Iraqi population by governorate is unknown, because the country has not had an official census for 15 years, governorates that include substantial Sunni populations include Baghdad, Al Anbar, Salah ad Din, Ninawa and Diyala. In the event, Al Anbar, Salah ad Din, and Ninawa all saw majorities vote against ratification, though the vote in Ninawa did not result in the two-thirds "no" supermajority required to scuttle the constitution.

The Ballot

Voting took place as planned on 15 October, amidst heavy security. Initially, Iraqi election officials had hoped that results of the balloting would be made public by October 19. On 17 October, however, election officials announced that questions concerning the turnout in some provinces required that the vote be audited, which delayed release of the final figures. A sandstorm in central Iraq has also contributed to the delay. Although Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq has alleged fraud, election monitors from the United Nations said that the vote "went well."

On 25 October, Electoral Commission officials released the final results, which indicated that the constitution had been approved. Overall, 79 % of voters backed the charter and 21 % opposed it. Of 18 governorates, only two recorded "No" votes greater than two thirds – one province short of a veto. Turnout in the referendum was 63 %, commission officials had said previously.

With the approval of the constitution, elections for a permanent government must be held no later than 15 December 2005, with the new government assuming office no later than 31 December 2005. If the constitution had been rejected, the National Assembly would have been dissolved, and a new transitional government would have been elected to attempt to write another permanent constitution.

During this election, security detainees held by coalition forces and the Ministry of Interior were given the opportunity to vote. This is the first time in the modern history of the Middle East that detainees of this nature were allowed to vote in any election.

Results table

ee also

wikinewshas|multiple news articles relating to this article:
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*Federalism in Iraq

External links

* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/07/AR2005090702086.html Iraq's Sunnis Register to Vote in Droves] "(The Washington Post," 8 September 2005)
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4309164.stm UN condemns Iraq charter change] (BBC News, 4 October 2005)
* [http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051015/wl_nm/iraq_dc_47;_ylt=Aklf07GXghG74YaDWyriKXEUewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA2ZGZwam4yBHNlYwNmYw-- Iraqis vote on new constitution; few attacks] "Reuters" October 15, 2005
* [http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2005/10/iraqi-constitution-what-would-approval.php The Iraqi Constitution: What Would Approval Really Mean?] JURIST
* [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051016/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_051016140752;_ylt=AtoFoMoSILCzEbYKOV996ShX6GMA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl Iraq Charter Seems Assured of Approval] Associated Press October 16, 2005
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4351680.stm Iraq result delay over fraud fear] BBC October 17, 2005
* [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051025/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_referendum;_ylt=AumpE4amVmXY5rARn4uq_1Gs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ-- Draft Constitution Adopted by Iraqi Voters] AP October 25, 2005
* [http://www.vnutz.com/content/iraqi_referendum Soldier's firsthand photo essay of Baghdad's Referendum Vote on October 15th] by Matthew Vea
* [http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000087&sid=amqz7dZlEx3w&refer=top_world_news Iraqi Constitution Approved by 79 % of Voters] [http://www.bloomberg.com/ Bloomberg] October 25, 2005
* [http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr155.html Iraq's Constitutional Process II: An Opportunity Lost] U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report, December 2005


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