Iraqi charter expected to pass but For US a hard road is still ahead

Iraq's draft constitution seemed assured of passage Sunday after initial results showed minority Sunni Arabs had fallen short in an effort to veto it at the polls. 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, reports the AP.

Even so, the constitution appears to have been soundly rejected in two Sunni provinces, indicating deep opposition to the document in the areas most crucial to ending the insurgency and binding Iraq's political wounds.

"This thing is an enormous fiasco," said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan historian and a specialist on Shiite Islam. He said having such a solid bloc in opposition to the constitution "really undermines its legitimacy, and this result guarantees the guerrilla war will go on."

Success in Iraq still elusive 2 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion is critical to President Bush's hopes to provide a democratic anchor in a region long dominated by autocratic governments. But recent polls show a majority of Americans have soured on the invasion, a key factor in the president's low approval ratings.

Now, the White House's attention will turn to the December elections to replace the current interim government and elect a new National Assembly. Bush administration officials have argued that Saturday’s vote, with increased participation by Sunni Arabs, will draw them into the political process and boost their representation in the Iraqi parliament, informs the Washington Post.


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