Over the last 10 days the Independent Election Commission and UN representatives have been reviewing the votes in the recent Constitutional Referendum, and today they certified the results and the passage of the Constitution.
There had been some concerns about the extremely high turnout and polarized results in some provinces, but auditors have confirmed that these results appear to be legitimate if somewhat unexpected. The Constitution failed to pass in only two of the provinces, but in those Sunni dominated areas the vote went overwhelmingly against the Constitution even though it passed with a 78% majority nationwide.
UN representative Carina Perelli commented:
- "It has been audited, controlled - it has been done really in a very professional way. The result is accurate. It has been checked according to the processes that we all follow when we have elections."
The strong oppositon in the heavily Sunni areas of the country suggests that they will be a source of ongoing trouble, but as a positive counterpoint, in response to the certification of the election, three major Sunni political parties today announced the formation of the Iraqi Concord Front a new coalition party which will participate in the next series of elections. They pledged to support the constitution, even though they opposed it, and to work to bring rebellious Sunnis into the political process.
In the days leading up to the referendum and during the actual vote, reporter Michael Yon was in a unique position to observe the voting process. He travelled around the country with Command Sergeant Major Jeffrey Mallenger (the highest ranking US non-commissioned officer in Iraq) who was overseeing coalition forces maintaining security during the voting. His day by day account of his experiences offers a unique insight into how the remarkably orderly and successful referendum came off, and a great look at conditions in Iraq and among coalition and Iraqi military forces during this period. It's not at all the picture you'd expect. The report has been excerpted in several magazines and newspapers, but you can read the whole thing at www.michaelyon.com. There's also an interesting interview with Michael Yon at TechCentral Station.
The next big event in the political process in Iraq is the Parliamentary Election scheduled for December 15th, which will set up the new government under the recently passed Constitution. The relatively non-violent character of the referendum vote and the increasing involvement of all factions in the political process suggests that this next election should put Iraq on the road towards stability and increasing security.