Media Focuses on Next Iraqi Challenge
After the wonderful news from earlier today, the media is taking no time to celebrate, and instead is now focusing on the election results, a “yes” or “no” to the new Iraqi Constitution. As Gates of Vienna predicted, the media is painting a picture of doom and gloom already for the likelihood that the Constitution will pass. Or even if it does pass, that it will mean much due to the great discontent from the Sunni dominated provinces.
This release is from earlier today by Jennifer Loven of the AP. After it was clear that there was a high election turnout and the that violence was minimal compared to last January’s vote, the article focused on the discontent of the Sunnis with the whole process:
But to many Sunnis, the U.S.-brokered deal to win their support delays solving basic problems of power-sharing among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. They claim the agreement only papers over the cleavages in a religiously, ethnically and culturally mixed society.
Amid a surprisingly large turnout in several key heavily Sunni provinces, many voters said they were voting against the constitution. If two-thirds of voters in any three of Iraq’s 18 provinces vote “no,” the charter will not be approved.
With little violence, turnout was more than 66 percent in the three most crucial provinces.
The constitution still seemed likely to pass, as expected. But the large Sunni turnout made it possible that the vote would be close or even go the other way, and late Saturday it appeared at least two of a required three provinces might reject it by a wide margin.
After polls opened at 7 a.m., whole families turned out at voting stations, with parents carrying young children, sometimes in holiday clothes. Men and women lined up by the hundreds in some places or kept up a constant traffic into heavily bunkered polls, dressed in their best in suits and ties or neatly pressed veils — or in shorts and flip-flops, weary from the day’s Ramadan fast.
A day that U.S. and Iraqi leaders feared could become bloody turned out to be the most peaceful in months, amid a heavy clampdown by U.S.-Iraqi forces across the country.
Insurgents attacked five of Baghdad’s 1,200 polling stations, wounding seven voters, but there were no suicide bombings or other major attacks.
This AP article by Lee Keath paints a bleak picture of Sunni discontent:
The Sunni Arab minority, which dominated the country under Saddam Hussein and forms the backbone of the insurgency, widely opposes the draft, convinced its federalist system will tear the country into Shiite and Kurdish mini-states in the south and north, leaving Sunnis in an impoverished center.
Most Sunnis appeared to be voting “no” even after one major party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, came out in support of the draft because last-minute amendments promised Sunnis the chance to try to change the charter later.
In the Sunni Anbar province, streets and polling stations in towns strung along the Euphrates River valley were largely empty as residents remained hunkered in their homes, fearing insurgent violence or so embittered they refused to vote.
The minimal turnout in Anbar — as in the January election — suggested the key battleground between U.S.-Iraqi forces and insurgents, would remain alienated from the political process.
The constitution will fail if it was rejected by at least two-thirds of the voters in at least three of the country’s 18 provinces. With many Sunni Arab groups opposing the document, rejection is considered possible in four provinces where Sunnis predominate. 10 million Iraqis may have turned out to vote:
Turnout in Iraq’s constitutional referendum may have crossed 10 million voters, or nearly two thirds of those registered, a member of Iraq’s Electoral Commission said after polls closed.
“I think it could be more than 10 million, I think, I hope,” Farid Ayar, one of seven commissioners on the Electoral Commission, said on Saturday.
The commission would be able to release partial results on Monday, and a final, but still uncertified, tally on 20 October.
MCCANNTA says the election was a great success for democracy, regardless of the outcome.