October 5, 2005
Changing Rules in the Middle of the Game - UPDATE and bump
UPDATE: See below.
Whenever I hear frustrated Americans complaining about the seemingly slow process of Iraqi democratization, I tell them, "give Iraq a chance; they are not used to this democracy thing; it will take time; they have a lot to learn from us." Well, they might have learned a bit too much from Democratic election committees of Florida 2000.
Over the weekend, the Shia dominated Iraqi parliament changed the rules of the upcoming election. They rigged it so that no matter how the Sunnis vote, the referendum will pass.
Iraq's parliament made a ruling on Sunday determining that for the October 15 referendum to pass, half of those who turn out to vote across the country would have to say, "Yes." However, a clause setting a two-thirds "No" vote in at least three of 18 provinces as a veto on the charter would be interpreted to mean two-thirds of all registered voters, rather than voters on the day. In other words, parliament was interpreting the word "voters" in the interim constitution in two different ways in the same article. [emphasis added]
In other words, the meaning of the word “voters” will be interpreted depending on how the voters voted! "Yes" voters are measured against other voters, while "No" voters are measured against all potential voters. This is just as bad as the infamous hanging chads.
This of course does not sit well with Sunnis.
Sunni Arab moderates threatened Tuesday to boycott the voting after the Shiite-led parliament passed new rules over the weekend that make it effectively impossible for Sunnis to defeat the charter at the ballot box. "Boycotting the referendum is a possible option... because we believe that participating in the voting might be a useless act," said Saleh al-Mutlaq, a leading Sunni politician.
Even the United Nation is perturbed, saying this does not follow international standards.
The United Nations also expressed concern about the new electoral rules, saying they don't meet international standards. U.N. officials have been meeting with Iraqi authorities and are confident that Iraq will ultimately agree to sound electoral rules, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The UN is negotiating with the parliament right now. But I don't have much faith in the UN. The United States government echoes the concern, but I don’t know what we can do.
"Ultimately, this will be a sovereign decision by the Iraqis and it's up to the Iraqi National Assembly to decide on the appropriate electoral framework," Dujarric said. "That being said, it is our duty in our role in Iraq to point out when the process does not meet international standards."
This is outrageous. You can't change the rules in the middle. It was wrong when Democrats did it in Florida 2000, and it's still wrong now in Iraq.
What the Iraqi parliament must realize is that Democracy constitutes the rule of law, and the law must apply equally to everyone. That’s the basis of Democracy. The Constitution is the cornerstone of that democracy: if you rig the election to ratify it, what kind of beginning is that?
I put no stock in the UN. They can negotiate all they want; but at the end of the day, the only voice Iraqis listen to is America's. The United States government has to do more than express its "deep concern" and "strongly suggest" that they change the rules back to the original. Hey, we've got the guns; we got to ram this democracy thing down them Iraqis' throats whether they like it or not!
Omar at Iraq the Model sums up my feeling.
I wasn't worried at all when the final draft came with several articles I didn't agree with since I thought my voice would count and could change things in either direction but now? Now I feel like I'm facing a challenge of having my voice ignored and hijacked again and that is something I cannot accept.
Any rules change that causes even the pro-democracy bloggers at Iraq the Model to back away is a terrible miscalculation. Rules are rules -- leave them alone, and just trust the Iraqi people.
UPDATE from Dafydd, 12:40 pm October 5th:
Sachi just e-mailed me that the Iraqi parliament has changed the rule back to the original (hat tip to Matoko Kusanagi and Terry Gain, who noticed and commented around the same time Sachi found the AP article). Via AP:
Sunnis Drop Threat to Boycott Referendum
Oct 5, 12:51 PM (ET)
by Qassim Abdul-Zahra
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's parliament voted Wednesday to reverse last-minute changes to rules for next week's referendum on a new constitution after the United Nations said they were unfair. Sunni Arabs responded by dropping their threat to boycott the vote and promised to reject the charter at the polls.
The United Nations, which was supervising the referendum, and U.S. officials had pressed Iraqi leaders to drop the rule change, which would have made it nearly impossible for the constitution to be defeated and jeopardized efforts to bring Sunnis into the political process.
One might, of course, conclude that American opposition to the rule change might perhaps have played slightly more of a role here than the objections of the toothless U.N., which fled Iraq after a single bombing of the U.N. facility there and have only crept back when assured of protection by the United States.
After a brief debate Wednesday, the National Assembly voted 119 to 28 to restore the original voting rules for the referendum. Only about half of the 275-member legislative body turned up for the vote.
The text approved by parliament Wednesday confirmed that the word "voters" throughout the election rules in the interim constitution has a single meaning: those who cast votes.
"The word 'voters' in paragraph (c), article 61 of the Transitional Administrative law, means registered voters who actually cast their votes in the referendum," reads the text, according to deputy speaker Hussain al-Shahristani....
Wednesday's vote came after intensive talks by U.N. and American officials to pressure the Iraqis to reverse the rule change as Sunnis accused the Shiite-led government of fixing the rules to guarantee a victory.
The Sunnis may "promise" to reject the new constitution, but they may find it harder to deliver. Mustering a two-thirds majority against the referendum in three separate provinces will not be as easy as they imagine: for one reason, more Sunnis than Sunni leaders care to admit actually support the constitution, believing that they can change clauses they don't like by subsequent amendment. The bloggers at Iraq the Model fall into this category, as seen in the post today by Mohammed:
Although I have my objections to several articles of the draft constitution, I will certainly respect my people’s choice and I do believe that half a step forward is still better than many steps backward. I still see this constitution as an upgradeable project that can be improved for better performance in the future and it’s much better than the no-constitution-state and the chaos that would accompany that.
Captain Ed is all over this on Captain's Quarters, as well.
Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 5, 2005, at the time of 12:58 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/80
The following hissed in response by: Kent
"Yes" voters are measured against other voters, while "No" voters are measured against all potential voters.
I believe this is precisely how the Hawaiian judiciary interpreted the vote on the amendment to ban gay marriage in Hawaii.
For whatever that's worth.
The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi
roger l simon sez they changed it back!!!
that is a very hopeful sign. ;-)
The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi at October 5, 2005 11:12 AM
The following hissed in response by: Terry Gain
As noted by Matoko, they changed it back. Time for an update.
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