Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Top Shiite Cleric Hints at Wider Voting Role for Sunnis

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 27 - Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric appeared to offer a major concession to the Sunni Arab minority on Monday when he indicated that he would support changes in the voting system that would probably give Sunnis more seats in the future parliament.

In a meeting with a group of Sunni and Shiite leaders, the cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, outlined a proposal that would scrap the system used in the January election, according to a secular Shiite political leader, Abdul Aziz al-Yasiri, who was at the meeting. The election had a huge turnout by Shiites and Kurds but was mostly boycotted by Sunni Arabs.

Such a change would need to be written into Iraq's new constitution, which parliamentarians are drafting for an Aug. 15 deadline. Although there has been little public talk about what form elections might take under the constitution, Ayatollah Sistani has been highly influential in Iraq's nascent political system.

Under the proposal, voters in national elections would select leaders from each of the 19 provinces instead of choosing from a single country-wide list, as they did in January. The new system would essentially set aside a number of seats for Sunnis roughly proportionate to their numbers in the population, ensuring that no matter how low the Sunni turnout, they would be guaranteed seats."
This looks like good news for Iraq's future. I remember we had this very debate on Abbas before the last election. At the time I opposed the district voting system and was in favor of the country wide, or single district system for obvious reasons, like the US should not be seen as picking the districts, called gerrymandering here in the US. The Iraqis can gerrymander their own districts. And the new constitution is the right place to do it, or at least set the ground rules.
What a place Iraq, the only place I ever heard of where the Ayatollah is the sanest guy in town. The ME needs more Ayatollah's like Sistani. If he keeps on this path his name will go down in history right next to the likes of Jefferson.

The last post in the constitution series


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