Sunni Leader Announces 'No' Vote Campaign
RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with Salih al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Arab representative in the constitution-drafting committee and the spokesman for the National Dialogue Council. He said that a "front" has been established to campaign for a "No" vote in the referendum. Al-Mutlaq was interviewed in Amman, Jordan, on 24 September.
If the Iraqi constitution remains as it is, [it should be refused] in all Iraq and not just in three governorates [referring to the minimum definition of a negative turnout of the referendum as set in Article 61, Clause c of the Transitional Administrative Law]. We hope the constitution will be refused by 51 percent of Iraqis. Therefore, we have focused on southern governorates no less than we have focused on central governorates. We even have been paying more attention to southern governorates because we want, through this initiative, to confirm that Iraqis are one people after many have tried to spread doubt about this fact. Various forces have attempted to incite religious strife and provoke sectarian divisions in Iraq. Through this vote, we will be able to unite Iraqis...from the sons of Al-Basrah to the sons of Mosul and Zakho.
RFI: What about the campaign you have launched?
Al-Mutlaq: We have launched a campaign to collect 5 million signatures [of people refusing the constitution]. The campaign has already started in the governorates of Kirkuk and Diyala. Today, we discussed the campaign to be conducted in Al-Anbar and other governorates. We have also been working in [the southern governorates of] Al-Basrah, Al-Samawa, and Al-Nasiriyah. The work is still in its beginnings as we have faced many difficulties and only little time remains [till the referendum day on 15 October]. I can assure you: had there been more time, we would have collected 15 million [signatures]. But as the time remaining is short, we had to launch the campaign for receiving only 5 million [signatures]. The process is very difficult from the standpoint of [its] administration but I expect that the big enthusiasm of Iraqis will secure success for our project.
RFI: What do you think about the measure that expatriate Iraqis will be excluded from voting in the referendum?
Al-Mutlaq: The [Iraqi High Independent Election] Commission has committed an error with this measure. I have spoken to the commission, saying that Iraqis living outside Iraq will be ruled according to the constitution drafted now. They will be obliged to abide by the constitution enactments. That is why they should have the chance to express their opinion on this constitution.... [The commission] wants today to deprive a particular segment of society of the vote on this constitution. This [expatriate] segment is an educated and responsible community that knows the dangers included in this constitution, and they know these people will say "No" to the constitution.
(Translation by Petr Kubalek)
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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