Sunnis appear to fall short in Iraq vote
Updated: 2005-10-17 08:46
Iraq's landmark constitution seemed assured of passage Sunday after initial
results showed minority Sunni Arabs had fallen short in an effort to veto it at
The apparent acceptance was a major step in the attempt to establish a
democratic government that could lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Opponents failed to secure the necessary two-thirds "no" vote in any three of
Iraqi's 18 provinces, according to counts that local officials provided to The
Associated Press. In the crucial central provinces with mixed ethnic and
religious populations, enough Shiites and Kurds voted to stymie the Sunni bid to
reject the constitution.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani issued a decree setting Dec. 15 for Iraqis to
vote again, this time to elect a new parliament. If the constitution indeed
passed, the first full-term parliament since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003 will
install a new government by Dec. 31. If the charter has failed, the parliament
will be temporary, tasked with drawing up a new draft on which to vote.
But the outcome could further divide the nation, with many Sunnis fearing the
new decentralized government will deprive them of their fair share in the
country's vast oil wealth. Large numbers of Sunnis voted "no," and some of their
leaders were already rejecting the apparent result.
While a strong Sunni turnout in Saturday's referendum suggested a desire
among many to participate in Iraq's new political system, there were fears that
anger at being ruled under a constitution they oppose could push some into
supporting the Sunni-led insurgency.
"If the constitution was passed, the
attacks will definitely rise against the occupation forces, and the security
situation is going to be worse," said Sheik Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a prominent
cleric with the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, which
government officials accuse of links to the insurgency.
Election employees enter data from yesterday's
constitution referendum at the headquarters of the Independent Electoral
Commission in Iraq (IECI) in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday Oct. 16
In a sign of the relentless danger, five U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday
by a bomb in Ramadi, a hotbed of militants west of Baghdad, the military
announced. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. troops since a Sept. 29 bomb
blast in the same town also killed five soldiers. A Marine was also killed by a
bomb Saturday in the town of Saqlawiyah, the military said.
The most recent deaths brought to at least 1,976 the number of U.S. service
members who have died since the war began in 2003, according to an AP count.
President Bush congratulated Iraqis on the referendum, which across the
country saw few attacks and no deaths of voters in violence.
"The vote today in Iraq is in stark contrast to the attitude, the philosophy
and strategy of al-Qaida, their terrorist friends and killers," Bush said.
The constitution is a crucial step in Iraq's transition
to democracy after two decades of dictatorship under Saddam. Washington was
hoping it would pass so Iraqis can form a legitimate, representative government,
tame the insurgency and enable the 150,000 U.S. troops to begin withdrawing.