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Iraqis Voice Mixed Reactions to Constitutional Referendum


Iraqis are voicing mixed reactions to the announcement that their new constitution was overwhelmingly approved in last week's referendum. The Iraqi election commission said three-fourths of the voters approved the new charter, and although large numbers of Sunnis voted against it, they were not able to veto it.

Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad reacted with mixed opinions to the constitutional referendum, reflecting the polarization of society on the political process and the country's future.

Many Sunni Arabs rejected the referendum results.

Nadia Mohammed, 40, says there were many irregularities, particularly in the swing province of Ninevah and its capital, Mosul.

"I think it was rigged because in Mosul, it [the results] is not true," she said.

The owner of a cosmetics shop, Mohammed Obeidi, says the results of the referendum were clearly manipulated.

He says officials delayed announcing returns from two Sunni provinces where the vote was close, but quickly announced results from Shi'ite provinces where there was massive support for the charter.

However, Saad Mohammed, 33, a photographer, believes the referendum was fair.

He says one could see by the number of observers monitoring the voting and committees overseeing the counting that the referendum was honest.

The Shi'ite majority and the independence-minded Kurds supported the constitution because it provides autonomy to their oil-rich regions. However, Sunnis generally opposed the charter, fearing that its form of federalism would lead to the break-up of the country.

Sunnis are said to be behind the attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi's in the past two years.

Haidar Ali Yaseen Haidar, 30, and unemployed, was asked if the new constitution will lessen the violence.

He says no, on the contrary, the new constitution will fuel terrorism, because it was imposed on the people. It will increase the number of terrorists ten times.

But building contractor Naji Ahmed disagrees, saying any step forward helps, even though the progress may be slow.

"As time passes by, we have better security forces, we have more experienced personnel," he said. "People are gaining more trust. And eventually those terrorists, even though they are very strong, very organized, I hope that eventually they will dissolve."

Saad al-Izzi, manager of a medical appliance company, says stability will depend on how well the government adheres to the new constitution.

"If you have a good constitution and a good government which goes by this good constitution, then this will definitely decrease the amount of violence and the amount of terrorism in Iraq," he explained.

Most said they plan to vote in December's elections, which will elect a new parliament and replace the transitional government.

Some said they would vote for the current leadership. But many said they would vote for change, because their current leaders have done little to address shortages of water and electricity, poor social services and the lack of security.

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