October 16, 2005

Iraqi Constitution

Why did the constitutional referendum go off so relatively peacefully? Gilbert Achchar argues that Sunni voters made a collective decision to go vote down the draft constitution rather than blow stuff up, indicating that they're potentially willing to lay down their arms and play democracy if they think they can achieve their goals politically. Unfortunately, they probably can't—especially because, as praktike notes, Sunnis may believe that they comprise a much greater proportion of Iraq than they actually do, and expect to be treated accordingly.

At any rate, it seems the truly important elections will come in December, when Iraqis elect a new National Assembly that gets to decide on a number of amendments that resolve a bunch of still-unresolved constitutional issues, as per the Sunni-Shiite agreement reached before the referendum. Like haggling over the Bill of Rights. Meanwhile, about fifty provisions in the Constitution leave critical details of implementation "up to the legislature," so the next election will really be where the action is. But the Sunnis quite obviously won't win more than 15-20 percent of the assembly seats in December, so their influence over the new amendments and laws and just about everything worth anything will basically be negligible from here on out. (The Shiites are having a good chuckle about all of this; see KnightRidder: "Shiite leaders said the Sunni Muslims wouldn't win enough seats in the next Assembly to make major changes to the document next year." In other words: "Thanks for playing, chumps.")

From a Sunni perspective, the rational move is probably to continue supporting the insurgency, in the hopes of putting pressure on the Shia and Kurds to make actual concessions come amendment time next year. Or, at least, convince the U.S. to put pressure on the Shia and Kurds. For the Sunnis, violence still accomplishes much more than voting does. Anthony Cordesman has suggested that the Association of Muslim Scholars is trying to form a "political wing" of the insurgency for just this purpose, something akin to Sinn Fein and the IRA, but insofar as the insurgency has increasingly been hijacked by al-Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who doesn't much care for politics, that doesn't seem to be working out too well.
-- Brad Plumer 5:54 PM || ||