Iraq to hold constitution vote today

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Iraqis will vote on a referendum for the nation's proposed constitution today. It will be the second vote in the nation since the United States occupation. Local police and troops, as well as foreign troops will be on patrol to prevent violent insurgency. Schools, government offices, and the Baghdad airport are closed. Borders are shut to non-essential traffic. Votes are being recorded at 6000 polling stations throughout the country, even in the volotile Anbar province.

Interestingly, unlike the January 19, 2005 elections, in this referendum there have not been reports of provisions made for Iraqis living overseas to vote. At least one Sunni opponent of the constitution theorizes that overseas Iraqis are more secular and well-educated and would therefore be more likely to reject the constitution.

Most prominent politicians are endorsing the constitution; but some are not. President Jalal Talabani has appealed for a Yes vote, and called on Sunni insurgents to not disrupt the voting process. Dick Cheney, the United States Vice President calls it "vital to get a constitution in place." Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shi'ite spiritual leader, as well as Kurdish leaders are also encouraging a yes vote. The Shi'ites and Kurds make up about eighty percent of Iraq's population, so it is widely believed that the constitution will be ratified.

Election officials in Iraq say as many as 65 percent of eligible voters have turned out to vote so far. A simple majority is needed to approve the constitution. Election results are not expected for another five days.