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Iraq: RFI Speaks With Iraqi National Assembly Deputy Speaker

Members of the Iraqi Constitution Drafting Committee (file photo) RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviewed Husayn al-Shahristani, deputy speaker of the National Assembly, in Baghdad on 15 October.

RFI: Do you see the success of the referendum [process] in the first hours as a success for the draft constitution and of the efforts that have brought about the draft?

Al-Shahristani: It is the success of the Iraqi nation’s free will, of the courage of Iraqis, of their drive for self-determination. They will not allow anyone to steal their right to organize their political life. Yes, Iraqis have confirmed again that they are people [willing] to build this country on the foundations of justice, equality among citizens, democracy, and freedom for all. Since early morning, Iraqis have been going out [to voting stations] in large numbers, much larger than they were in the last elections [in January]. We are really optimistic that the result of the referendum will be “yes” to the constitution, “yes” to national unity, “yes” to democracy in Iraq, “yes” to equality among citizens, and a rejection of terror.

RFI: Hasn’t the political convergence and integration of the political spectrum in the political process been a positive impetus to the involvement of Iraqis in the political process, as we are witnessing it now in the referendum?

Al-Shahristani: Yes, certainly. The agreements that were reached in recent days -- and the courageous attitude of the Iraqi Islamic Party after it proposed these [last] amendments, and of other political entities, with the representatives of various communities of the Iraqi people reacting so promptly -- have prepared the way for a kind of national consensus. In many governorates, there really is a clear consensus on going to the ballot boxes and voting in favor of this constitution. I think the results will be surprising for many observers regarding the election turnout and the [proportion of] those who will vote “yes” on the constitution.

RFI: The referendum is to be followed by the election of the next National Assembly. In your opinion, will the composition of the new assembly be somewhat different and more flexible in actions than the current National Assembly has been?

Al-Shahristani: Certainly. The political process is growing and developing. In the previous elections, some circles boycotted the ballot. Due to that boycott, the current National Assembly does not represent all communities of the Iraqi people as it should. In all regions of Iraq, everybody is now very enthusiastic to participate in the [next] elections. I believe the coming assembly or, more accurately, the Council of Representatives as it is called in the constitution [draft], will represent a broader spectrum of segments of the Iraqi people and will be more vivid in discussing the issues presented to it.

Among the most important of those issues will be setting up a committee for revising the constitution text and making sure that the [text] has been accepted with satisfaction by all communities [of the Iraqi people]. Of course, any amendment or change must be proposed in the Council of Representatives and accepted by the majority of representatives. Without this, the [amended constitution] cannot be brought forward to the Iraqi people. If the Council of Representatives agrees on [further amendments], the same rules must be followed that were followed when the constitution [draft] received an approval or, in other words, [there must be] a referendum. [It must be accepted by] the majority of those who vote, with the right of rejection by two-thirds [of voters] in three [or more] governorates.

(Translated by Petr Kubalek)