Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why the U.S. Needs the U.N. to Monitor Its Elections

Looks like the Iraqi Ken Blackwell has been convinced to knock it off:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 5 -Following sharp criticism from the international community and Sunni leaders, Iraqi lawmakers voted today to reverse changes they made to rules governing next week's referendum on a new constitution.

The National Assembly overwhelmingly voted to clarify that the passage of the Oct. 15 referendum would depend on actual ballots cast rather than on the total number of registered voters. The decision, by a 119-28 vote, comes three days after Kurdish and Shiite lawmakers quietly agreed on last-minute changes that would have made it virtually impossible for the charter to fail, infuriating Sunni opponents and prompting the United Nations to press for a reversal of the rules.

"The U.N. said it was not just," said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of the National Assembly. "Today they reversed it."

The criticism by the United Nations was especially significant because the organization was brought in to supervise the referendum and confer a stamp of legitimacy on it. International observers as well as some members of the National Assembly had warned that the rule change would seriously damage the credibility of the vote, a crucial moment in Iraq's transition to full independence. Sunni Arab leaders had threatened to boycott the referendum.

At the center of the dispute was the definition of the term "voters." Under the rules that were passed on Sunday, the constitution would have failed only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of those actually casting ballots - had rejected it in at least three of the 18 provinces. Given that less than two-thirds of voters participated in the January legislative elections in Iraq, that would have made it almost impossible for the document to fail.

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