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Backgrounder: Twists and turns in making Iraq's constitution
www.chinaview.cn 2005-08-28 17:07:55

    BEIJING, Aug. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- A draft constitution of Iraq was signed by an overwhelming majority of the panel on Sunday.

    Here is a brief account of the twists and turns experienced in the making of the permanent constitution.

    In early May, the interim National Assembly nominated a 55-member committee to take charge of drafting the constitution, but the move was opposed by the minority Sunni Arabs, which had only two seats in the committee.

    In early June, an alliance of influential Sunni Muslims in Iraqthreatened to boycott drawing up the constitution unless the number of Sunni representatives in the parliamentary committee wasincreased to 25.

    Under the provisional constitution, the draft of the constitution would be annulled if two thirds of voters in three ofIraq's 18 provinces vetoed it.

    As Sunni Arabs make up some 20 percent of the Iraqi population and have great influence in at least three provinces, the constitution-drafting committee had to reconsider the interests ofthe Sunni Arabs.

    On June 16, Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Arabs struck a deal to add 15 Sunni members to the committee, amid a renewed wave of violenceacross the country.

    Under the deal, the committee was enlarged from 55 members to 70 members, and 10 additional Sunni Arabs serve as consultants tothe committee.

    On July 19, three Sunni constitution-drafting committee memberswere killed in Bagdad, further complicating the already difficult process.

    One day later, Sunni Arabs suspended their membership in the constitution-drafting committee to boycott the drafting process. They agreed on July 25 to return to the drafting table, after their demands for an investigation into the killing of the three Sunni members were met.

    However, at this time, great divisions still existed among committee members, who had no more than one month to meet the Aug.15 deadline.

    According to the provisional constitution, the committee could ask for more time to write the charter and resolve the persistent divisions among its members. The deadline for requesting an extension was Aug. 1.

    However, the postponement of the drafting would directly affectthe implementation of the referendum, which is prescribed by the provisional constitution to be carried out before Oct. 15, and which will have an impact on the general election scheduled for the end of the year.

    On July 31, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called on the constitution committee to make every effort to finish the draftingon time.

    The committee then announced on Aug. 1 that, although members of the committee were still divided over some parts of the constitution, they would finish the drafting and submit it to the National Assembly for approval by Aug. 15 as scheduled.

    On Aug. 15, Iraqi lawmakers voted in favor of amending the interim law and set a new Aug. 22 deadline for finalizing the country's constitution.

    The approval came after Parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani proposed the one-week extension of the constitution deadline.

    On Aug. 22, a draft constitution was submitted to the parliament, which received the draft just minutes before the midnight deadline. But there was no parliamentary vote on the draft and the parliamentary speaker said they would work three days to resolve some outstanding issues. Enditem 

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