Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Gaming the Constitutional Vote

I know I'm hours and hours behind on this, but Kurdish and Shiite representatives have apparently gamed the Oct. 15th vote on Iraq's Constitution. Here's how they did it:
Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces.

The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds will both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil...Ms. [Maryam]Reyes [ a Shiite] said the assembly members had not changed election law, but only clarified the meaning of the word "voters" in the relevant passage. The legal passage in question states: "The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of voters in three or more governorates do not reject it."

In their vote on Sunday, the Shiite and Kurdish members interpreted the law as follows: the constitution will pass if a majority of ballots are cast for it; it will fail if two-thirds of registered voters in three or more provinces vote against it. In other words, the lawmakers designated two different meanings for the word "voters" in one passage.
Sometimes it seems the Kurds and Shiites are just asking for a full-blown civil war to break out. This is the rub of democracy, even when you don't like the opposition, you must give them a seat at the table if the system is to fair, transparent, and representative of the body politic. Minority rights are critical to a liberal, republican democracy. I wonder if the Kurds and Shiites have been getting lessons from Karl Rove on how to schmooze the opposition into "giving up ground," which in Rovian terms means keeping them out of the political process altogether.