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New Iraqi Constitution Passes
By Tiffany Chaparro

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (right) and Director General of the Foreign and Commonwealth office John Sawers, meet journalists following their meeting in Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday, October 25, 2005.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (right) and Director General of the Foreign and Commonwealth office John Sawers, meet journalists following their meeting in Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday, October 25, 2005.
(Photo: Samir Mizban/AP Wide World)
Wednesday, October 27—The ballots have been counted, and the people of Iraq have a new constitution. More than three-quarters of Iraqi voters chose to make the constitution the law of their nation.

The constitution requires Iraqis to vote for a leader every four years, and grants much power to local governments. The constitution will also allow Iraq to elect its first full-time parliament, or lawmaking body (like the U.S. Congress), since Saddam Hussein ruled the country.

"It's a landmark day in the history of Iraq," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "The political process is continuing to move forward in Iraq and it is an encouraging sign to see more and more people participating in the process."

Reactions to the Vote

There are three main groups in Iraq: Shiites, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs. Most of the Shiites and Kurds approved of the constitution, but almost all of the Sunnis, the smallest group in Iraq, voted against it.

For the constitution to be rejected, two-thirds of the voters in 3 of Iraq's 18 provinces would have had to vote against it. Only two provinces rejected the constitution, so the constitution passed.

Many Sunnis think that some of the votes were not counted correctly, or were even made up. Election officials said on Tuesday that they did not find any evidence of that.

What's Next?

The approval of the constitution is a big step toward Iraqi democracy. Since the constitution passed, elections will be held for the new Iraqi parliament on December 15. The constitution will take effect after the December elections.

Critics of the new constitution fear that it will worsen the divide between Sunnis and the rest of Iraq's people. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Arab, and he awarded power to many Sunnis. Now that Hussein is no longer the nation's ruler, Sunnis have lost much of their power. But at least the Sunnis are participating in the vote. Last January, they refused to cast their ballots in a vote for a temporary government.

"I think we must be interested in the next elections, because we can change the constitution through the next assembly," said Fakhri al-Qaisi, a dentist and senior official in the National Dialogue Council, a Sunni group.