Constitution So Divisive, There are Calls for a New One

The current Iraqi Constitution was drafted by committee and approved by public referendum in 2005. Around 60 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote on the Constitution and almost 80 percent of them approved it. However it has long been clear that the Constitution needed amendments and revision. Even the Constitution itself allows this, with Article 142 calling for the formation of a special committee to revise it and come up with amendments.

“In 2005, Iraqis approved the Constitution in a referendum, but they voted on an incomplete and badly written draft, not realising that the document would deepen Iraq’s misery,” wrote Saad Jawad, a professor of Iraqi political science, in a paper for the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics. “The hasty way the Constitution was drafted, the many unhelpful external interventions, the absence of Iraqi constitutional expertise and the side-lining of Sunni Arab representation have all contributed to the precarious situation in Iraq in the subsequent eight years. Considering the myriad confusions and divisions underlying the Constitution’s drafting process, it is not surprising that the document has created more problems than it has solved.”

The previous government –in power between 2005 and 2009 - managed to form such a committee, with adequate representation of all sectors of the Iraqi populace, and in May 2007 they did submit a list of suggested amendments. Although the last lot of MPs eventually failed in their mission to amend the Constitution they still did better than the current Parliament. The current Parliament is so divided it has not even managed to form a committee to look into this issue and it seems as though any minor consensus that used to exist among the different segments of Iraqi MPs – for example, Shiite Muslim, Sunni Muslim, Kurdish – has all but evaporated. Nobody can agree on anything.

And with only a few months remaining for them, before the next elections, they seem unlikely to get any further with the task. It seems certain that the constitutional hot potato will be passed onto the next Parliament, after elections in 2014.

The biggest problem with the current Constitution is a lack of clarity in many of its articles. Often articles only deal with issues on the most general basis and then end by saying that they shall be organized by law.

Obviously this is not all that unusual among governments that abide by constitutions. Often the basic tenets are open to interpretation which can make for controversy. For example, members of the US government still argue as to whether the articles in the US Constitution should be interpreted by modern standards or whether they should be used in the way that the Constitution’s writers originally intended.

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