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Sunni Group Demands Postponement Of Constitution Referendum

The Sunni Arab group Movement of Arab Iraqis (Harakat al-Iraqiyin al-Arab) demanded a postponement of the 15 October referendum on the draft constitution during a press conference in Baghdad on 5 October. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq spoke with members of the movement.

Movement of Arab Iraqis Secretary-General Husam Abd al-Aziz al-Ali: All we demand is that the referendum on the constitution, scheduled for 15 October, be postponed until after the next election [planned for December 2005]. The referendum, and the election as well, require that a stabilized security situation be provided and a kind of political reconciliation among all various political factions on the Iraqi scene be reached. We, along with some other political groups, have sent our opinion on the issue of postponing the referendum to Ashraf Qazi, the envoy of the UN secretary-general [to Iraq].

Asked whether it is too late to demand that the referendum be postponed, Hamid al-Rubay’i, a member of the General Secretariat of the Movement of Arab Iraqis, told RFI: No, it is not too late. We have raised this issue at a number of political events, to movements and people concerned with this issue. We have been saying that the mechanism of the referendum on the constitution must be clear. In addition to that, the constitution should have been drafted through consensus, with all communities of the Iraqi people represented. Now, some Iraqi political forces have [voiced] objections over [conducting] the referendum on the constitution, [saying] that it was premature. You know, the process is nothing simple, the process is something very big. The constitution will form the backbone of modern Iraq. What is then the secret behind this haste? In two weeks, [the constitution] will be presented in the referendum and [will receive] a "yes" or "no" answer. This, as anything done in a rush, will bring about rather negative than positive results. This is what we are anxious about.

Asked to explain the movement's concerns over the draft constitution, movement spokesman Fadil Hamad Jasim said: In fact, we have many reservations about the constitution text, starting with the preamble and going further to a number of articles. Above that, we also have remarks on the system of the referendum itself. In a referendum on 153 articles [of the constitution draft], [a voter’s disagreement on] a single article can cancel the whole constitution. It can be expected that the system of the referendum should be a vote on each article separately, not in a complex way where one has to say either "yes" or "no."

If it is in the morning, someone may even say "yes" or "no" just depending on his or her mood. Moreover, the constitution [draft] has not been introduced to the people. There are articles in the Transitional Administrative Law that oblige the National Assembly to organize public meetings to explain the constitution to the people so that they are thoroughly informed before they give their approving or disapproving vote. Now, the referendum is to be held in less than 10 days, but there are many questions that people do not know. Among those questions, there are such that are important for their future and present and for the generations to come but they have remained obscure to them.

(Translation by Petr Kubalek)

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