15 October 2005 Constitutional Referendum
On 30 January 2005 Millions of voters cast their ballots in Iraq's landmark election. The elections selected a 275-member assembly, which will select a new interim government and draft Iraq's constitution. A national referendum on the constitution took place on 15 October 2005. A simple majority was needed to pass the constitution, but it could fail if two-thirds of voters in at least three provinces reject it. Elections to choose a permanent government were then held in December 2005.
Government spokesman Laith Kubba hailed it as a success, regardless of how people voted. "Today is a day of national consensus on participation regardless of who will vote 'yes' or 'no.' I think that, as Iraqis, we can be proud of that. This is a first and major step towards saying 'no' to political violence. We are seeing turnout even in areas that until recently have been hot and violence-racked, but they are now taking part and saying 'yes' to the ballot box. All these are favorable signs," Kubba said.
As voting neared its close, there was praise from U.S. President George W. Bush, who said the constitution is a document that protects fundamental freedoms and lays the foundation for a lasting democracy. "By casting their ballots, the Iraqi people deal a severe blow to the terrorists and send a clear message to the world: Iraqis will decide the future of their country through peaceful elections, not violent insurgency," Bush said.
Security largely held across the country, although several polling stations in Baghdad were attacked and a roadside bomb killed three Iraqi soldiers northeast of the capital. Election officials said turnout was heavy in at least eight of Iraq's 18 provinces, while another seven provinces reported moderate turnout. Preliminary estimates indicate more than 60 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots.
Iraqi participation in the political process has grown among all communities. In January 2005, 8.5 million Iraqis defied terrorist threats to vote for Iraq's first freely elected national and provincial governments. In October 2005, nearly 10 million Iraqis from all areas of the country again defied terrorist threats to vote in the constitutional referendum, and the constitution was ratified. In a strategic shift, Sunnis turned to the political process to advance their interests. During the constitutional referendum in October, turnout in Sunni areas was strong. Although most Sunnis voted against the constitution, amendments made days before the referendum, in response to Sunni requests, permit further changes within six months after the new government is established. This, and other provisions of the constitution that defer important issues to the new assembly, will ensure that elected Sunni leaders are able to influence the shape of the new Iraq.
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