Iraqi Constitution Seen Headed for Approval

Early results indicate that Iraqi voters have endorsed their constitution, though it may be a week before results are official. The weekend election was peaceful. Los Angeles Times Baghdad correspondent Borzou Daragahi tells Steve Inskeep about the vote.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

The early indications are that Iraq's proposed constitution won approval from voters over the weekend. While ballots are still being counted, it's believed the Sunni Muslim opposition failed. Their goal was to find enough no votes to defeat the constitution in at three provinces which, under the rules, would have been enough to stop it. The reporters following this story include Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times. He's in Baghdad and on the line.

Borzou, what happened in the majority Sunni provinces, where this issue was going to be decided?

BORZOU DARAGAHI reporting:

Well, it seems that in the two provinces where Sunnis unquestionably dominate--that's Anbar in the west and Salah ad-Din in the northwest--they did get enough votes to defeat the constitution. But in the two, shall we say, swing provinces--Mosul, which is Ninawa province, and the Diyala province in the central east--they didn't get it. It was very doubtful that they would get it, and they didn't get it. And one of the things that's kind of ironic is, I think one of the reasons they didn't get the necessary votes is because of Saddam Hussein and previous Sunni Arab regimes and their policy of separating off Kurdish areas of the north and attaching them to majority Arab areas in order to dilute the Kurdish population of the north.

INSKEEP: Now is there any indication that large numbers of Sunnis in any province actually voted for the constitution?

DARAGAHI: There's no indication of that. We have anecdotal accounts from Ninawa province--that's Mosul up in the north--that a lot of Sunni Arab followers and loyalists of the Iraqi Islamic Party might have voted in favor of the constitution. We also have other anecdotal evidence and accounts that a lot of their party rank-and-file opposed the constitution. The Iraqi Islamic Party--this you may remember--was the Sunni Arab political party that made this last-minute deal with the Shiites and Kurds and agreed to support the referendum in exchange for certain concessions.

INSKEEP: Well, does this mean, then, that most Sunnis remain outside and opposed to the political process that's going on in Iraq? Because that's the key question that Americans have been asking. How can they get more people involved and more people out of the opposition?

DARAGAHI: You know, that's the key question. Will this formula, will this political progress translate into some sort of success against the insurgency. It doesn't seem to be placating much anger. As one person that I spoke to--one expert said, `Hey, you know, plenty of Confederate leaders participated in America's 1860 election, and you know, a year later, they were fighting against the Union army. So it doesn't seem like that's happening, that this is bringing the Sunni Arabs into the mainstream political process.

INSKEEP: What are people saying there about the fact that it was apparently a peaceful election in most places?

DARAGAHI: Yeah. I think that the credit for that is due to two factors. I think that Iraqi police did a pretty good job, and they're much better trained and disciplined than they were before. They have a little bit better equipment than they had in January. And also I think that--and this is a big issue: The insurgents did not want to interfere with this election. They wanted people--they wanted their Sunni Arab population to go out there and vote in general. And so that--there was very little violence.

INSKEEP: And one other thing we've been talking about, the results that are believed to be coming, and when are the final results known?

DARAGAHI: Well, we're getting information from the Iraqi election commission officials saying that probably maybe even today there'll be some provisional final results from the provinces. But there probably won't be official, ratified final results until all the question marks are answered, all the irregularities are looked into, and that will probably be within a week, but we could see a completion of provisional results by midweek.

INSKEEP: OK. And we'll keep listening for more news. Borzou, thanks very much.

DARAGAHI: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Borzou Daragahi is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times in Baghdad.

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