Iraq: Referendum Preparations Weakest in Sunni Areas

Several new polls show that support for Iraq's proposed constitution is running strong among the country's Kurds and Shiites, and preparations for Saturday's vote appear to be further along in the Kurdish and Shiite regions of the country than in Sunni-majority provinces, according to news reports.

The reports come from the Iraqi Press Monitor, which translates excerpts from the local press.

In Missan province, a Shiite area on the Iranian border, 3,000 representatives from 23 political parties will monitor the vote, according to one story. But in Anbar province, a Sunni region in the western part of the country where U.S. troops have battled insurgents in recent weeks, a spokesman for the prime minister's office told the Al Mada daily that there will only be 1,000 monitors there.

Adil Lami, director of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, announced that the commission has opened 94 voting stations in the Anbar region and in Fallujah, another Sunni stronghold. But in western Anbar, the site of military operations, Lami said no voting stations were opened, according to Azzaman, a leading Baghdad daily.

The constitution will fail if two-thirds of voters in three provinces vote to reject it. Anbar is one of three provinces where Sunnis constitute a majority.

Elsewhere, polls suggest the draft national charter will win overwhelming approval. Al Sabah, another popular newspaper, said a survey of voters in the cities of Baghdad, Karbala and Dhiqar found 90 percent support for the constitution. Baghdad's population is mixed, while Karbala and Dhiqar are Shiite. Two polls in Kurdish areas found between 79 percent and 87 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for the new charter, with less than 10 percent saying they would vote against it. 

By Jefferson Morley |  October 13, 2005; 9:55 AM ET  | Category:  Mideast
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