Thursday, July 21, 2005

The countdown for the constitution continues.

Many statements from Iraqi officials and parliament members suggest that the work on writing the draft of the constitution will be done by the end of this month and that the CDC (constitution drafting committee) will not need to ask for an extra 6 months.
At the same time work has begun on preparing the country for the general referendum and just like the January elections, the IECI will also be responsible for making the arrangements and coordinating the process that is planned for the 15th of October of this year.

In this regard, Hussein Al-Hindawi from the IECI said that "there are 1,800 people working on the arrangements right now and this number will increase to reach 25,000 in October" to meet the needs of conducting a successful referendum.
While Ferid Ayar, chief member of the IECI said that he's "expecting no obstacles or problems like the ones we've seen in the January elections in some regions of Iraq" obviously in reference to cities like Mosul, Anbar and Samarra.

This expectation is obviously based on the fact that the most prominent Sunni parties and entities that previously boycotted the January elections (like the Islamic party and the council of Sunni endowment/property) have changed their minds recently and have declared their willingness to take part in the referendum and the next round of elections and even the hardliner association of Muslim scholars is now encouraging Sunni Arabs to take full part in the political process, yet the association itself had chosen to stay away from the political competition.

For the above reasons, the IECI is going to distribute 4,000,000 forms to update the voters' database and these shall be distributed mainly in Sunni regions where registration wasn't possible for too many voters back in January and the total number of voters is expected to increase by 2,000,000 due to the inclusion of citizens who were born in 1987 as well as to the vanishing of boycotting possibilities in some cities.

On the other hands, there are some good efforts underway to include the people in the discussion and probe their opinions while the draft is being prepared, for example the CDC is preparing itself to distribute 5,000,000 copies of the draft once it's finished so that the people can study the draft before they head to the ballots.
Humam Hammodi, the chairman of the CDC said that they received over 6,000 written suggestions from Iraqi citizens in addition to 40 suggested drafts submitted by civil society organizations and political entities as well as more than 1,500 suggestions concerning the constitution via e mail.
Hammodi thanked the Iraqi NGOs for their role in constitutional education as theses organizations held over 80 conferences, workshops and lectures in the past few weeks.

Jalal Talbani, the president said that "the teams of the CDC are working hard on the draft and they've almost finished the work and after settling a few differences in opinions, the draft will be ready by the end of July".

Now it seems that technically the process is running as desired but that's not exactly the case when it comes to the content of the draft; what I'm talking about here in particular is the subject of adopting Share'at laws as the new law of civil affairs.
This topic surfaced for the 1st time back in January 2004 when 5 or 6 GC members suggested adopting Share'at laws in dealing with affairs like marriage, inheritance, the value of women's statements in front of courts and other family-related affairs in what was known as "law 137" but it was rejected after 2 thirds of the GC members and Paul Bremer refused approving the law and we had a post about this subject at that time.

Now that religious parties make up a high percentage of the parliament, they think they can try again to pass this law in the new constitution.
Such a law would seriously compromise the rights of 60% of the population (women) so Baghdad has witnessed protests organized by secular women groups against this law in the last few days and as a response, religious parties sent their women followers to the streets in support of the law.

Now it's up to the secular and democratic elements in the parliament to confront this serious threat to the hopes of building a modern society in Iraq.
The greatest concern actually is the possibility of having the religious parties use their power and militias to exert pressure on the people (especially in the south) to support this law and that's why I'd feel more comfortable if the parliament was able to kill this law before it's fixed in the final draft.

Another voting rule that I don't agree with is that voters are going to answer by "yes" or "no" to the whole draft and I believe this is not what fits our situation best and it's going to complicate re-writing the draft if the draft is rejected in the October referendum because no onle will be able to tell which clauses were the reason behind rejecting the draft.

I would prefer to have the ability to vote on different parts separately, I understand that voting on each single clause would be complicated and time consuming but voting on groups of clauses say the bill of rights, then the election laws, then the form of governance...etc. That will provide a clearer vision on what the people want to approve and what they don't.

Anyway, as long as there will be more elections in the future, I won't freak out if I had to tolerate something I don't agree with because I will have the chance to say my word later.

Statistics from Iraqi papers Al-Sabah and Al-Mada.

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