Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Breaking: Iraqi Constitutional Referendum passes - Updated Twice

No story yet but Fox News' web site is showing a splash headline that the Iraqi referendum on their Constitution has passed. More to come as I get it.

Update: I was away from my computer pretty much all day yesterday but I wanted to link in with the stories on the referendum. The AP story I've linked is interesting in itself. For being a story on the passage of the Iraqi Constitutional referendum, it tells you literally nothing more than that it passed until the bottom 5 or so paragraphs. Since that's what this post is actually about, I'll quote the relevant parts of the story and leave the extraneous, Bush-bashing prose for another post.

::::::::The vote on the constitution was 78.59 percent for ratification and 21.41 percent against, the commission said. The charter required a simple majority nationwide with the provision that if two-thirds of the voters in any three provinces rejected it, the constitution would be defeated.

The election commission said the predominantly Sunni province of Ninevah had produced a "no" vote of 55 percent. Only two other mostly Sunni provinces — Salahuddin and Anbar — had voted no by two-thirds or more. Ninevah had been a focus of fraud allegations since preliminary results had showed a large majority of voters had approved the constitution, despite a large Sunni Arab population there.

Many Kurds and majority Shiites strongly support the constitution, but Sunni Arabs fear it will create two virtually autonomous and oil-rich mini-states of Kurds in the north and Sunnis in the south, while leaving many Sunnis isolated in poor central and western regions with a weak central government in Baghdad.

Some 9.8 million Iraqis cast ballots, or 63 percent of registered voters. About 60 percent turned out for January's legislative vote, which was boycotted by many Sunni Arabs.

So, we have a democratic referendum that saw participation greater than the January elections, not less than. The 63% participation figure is a respectable turnout in anyone's book - certainly no American can complain about it being too small. The vote to pass it was 78% (I'll give the AP the .59% they quote - they appear to be in pain over the numbers.) That's also a respectable number and higher than most votes for passages I've seen around here for a while. Where many have said that democracy simply cannot work, we have yet another example where it's not just working, but working well under conditions that many people wouldn't even think of voting in. Clearly, these Iraqis want it bad. And that, my friends, is good.

Update Again: Here's what a story on the topic looks like when the main point is to tell the story about the referendum, rather than trying to throw as much negative reporting as possible up as a screen against saying anything positive about it.

::::::::Final referendum results show Iraqis emphatically approved a new constitution, putting their country on a firm democratic footing and setting the stage for crucial legislative elections in just seven weeks, officials said yesterday.

"This opens a new page for a better future for Iraq," said President Jalal Talabani's chief spokesman, upon hearing the results.

"It is a very important step in the formation of a final democratic, united Iraq, and is the path for a more politically stable Iraq," said Kameron Karadaghi.

Mr. Talabani was in the Kurdish north when the results were announced and was headed back to Baghdad yesterday evening.

The political milestone, while welcome, has yet to make a difference at the street level, where bombs and gunfire attacks helped push the U.S. military death toll in 2? years of fighting to 2,000 and left few Iraqis in a mood to celebrate.

In Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi military foot patrols conducted house-to-house searches yesterday in the wake of three suicide bomb attacks a day earlier aimed at hotels popular with expatriates.

News reports in Iraq and the region were generally matter-of-fact about the approval of the Oct. 15 referendum, and most noted charges of fraud from some Sunni leaders.But an American defense consultant who spent all of 2004 in Fallujah, arguably the most dangerous city in Iraq, contrasted the price paid by U.S. forces in the country with what is being achieved.

"It is important that the American people understand that the U.S. military presence has made a difference in these people's lives," said the consultant, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons.

Approval of the constitution was an extremely important step, but not the final one, he said. "We can't just bail out. The democratic process that the document has put in place in time will be worth the cost to our nation."

Altogether, 78 percent of voters supported the charter and 21 percent voted against it, with voting breaking down largely on ethnic lines. "Yes" votes ran as high as 99 percent in exclusively Kurdish and Shi'ite provinces, while in Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold, the vote was 97 percent "no."