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Sunni Leader Announces 'No' Vote Campaign

RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with Salih al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Arab representative in the constitution-drafting committee and the spokesman for the National Dialogue Council. He said that a "front" has been established to campaign for a "No" vote in the referendum. Al-Mutlaq was interviewed in Amman, Jordan, on 24 September.

Salih al-Mutlaq: This front has been joined by more than 3,000 representatives from the social and political spheres, in addition to political parties and civil society groups. It is, however, a bloc of social and political personalities, not just a party similar to other political parties. The thing is that most political parties at present, as you may know, are entities without a real base among the people. That is why we focused on popular leaderships in the region, opening our doors to all influential parties that support the principles of Iraqi unity, independence of Iraq, and the Arab identity of Iraq. The doors of the front are open to everyone who believes in these basics. The main goal of this front is the refusal of or a change in the current [draft of the] constitution. Our main agenda is to change the constitution.

If the Iraqi constitution remains as it is, [it should be refused] in all Iraq and not just in three governorates [referring to the minimum definition of a negative turnout of the referendum as set in Article 61, Clause c of the Transitional Administrative Law]. We hope the constitution will be refused by 51 percent of Iraqis. Therefore, we have focused on southern governorates no less than we have focused on central governorates. We even have been paying more attention to southern governorates because we want, through this initiative, to confirm that Iraqis are one people after many have tried to spread doubt about this fact. Various forces have attempted to incite religious strife and provoke sectarian divisions in Iraq. Through this vote, we will be able to unite Iraqis...from the sons of Al-Basrah to the sons of Mosul and Zakho.

RFI: What about the campaign you have launched?

Al-Mutlaq: We have launched a campaign to collect 5 million signatures [of people refusing the constitution]. The campaign has already started in the governorates of Kirkuk and Diyala. Today, we discussed the campaign to be conducted in Al-Anbar and other governorates. We have also been working in [the southern governorates of] Al-Basrah, Al-Samawa, and Al-Nasiriyah. The work is still in its beginnings as we have faced many difficulties and only little time remains [till the referendum day on 15 October]. I can assure you: had there been more time, we would have collected 15 million [signatures]. But as the time remaining is short, we had to launch the campaign for receiving only 5 million [signatures]. The process is very difficult from the standpoint of [its] administration but I expect that the big enthusiasm of Iraqis will secure success for our project.

RFI: What do you think about the measure that expatriate Iraqis will be excluded from voting in the referendum?

Al-Mutlaq: The [Iraqi High Independent Election] Commission has committed an error with this measure. I have spoken to the commission, saying that Iraqis living outside Iraq will be ruled according to the constitution drafted now. They will be obliged to abide by the constitution enactments. That is why they should have the chance to express their opinion on this constitution.... [The commission] wants today to deprive a particular segment of society of the vote on this constitution. This [expatriate] segment is an educated and responsible community that knows the dangers included in this constitution, and they know these people will say "No" to the constitution.

(Translation by Petr Kubalek)

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