Monday, August 15, 2005

Thinking constitutionally

The Iraqi draft constitution is set to be unveiled tomorrow and we know a few things about it... e.g. that the name of the country will continue to be "Republic of Iraq"... but there are some things still up in the air. The major questions are the division of oil monies, the nature of the vertical power structure and the rights of women and role of Islam.

According to Iraq the Model, the power structure will give the right to form federal states to any governorate or combination of those. That is to say, it will be like the Spanish "Estado de las Autonomías" if this is true. To be honest, that is a novel and appropriate solution to the issue, and succeeds in postponing likely difficult negotiations over exactly what powers everyone will have. At the same time, the financial side of the equation would see oil revenues distributed by population as the Sunni factions would like.

Meanwhile, the role of Islam as a contributing and constraining yet not overriding factor in legislation seems the most likely solution. There is a question about the role of women in the new constitution, whether the rather broad civil rights they currently enjoy will be maintained and whether they will continue to have the guarantee of every third spot on the party lists. Maintaining these guarantees would be a plus for the new Iraqi state but we will see what the draft says; and if women's rights are impinged by the new document will that be enough for it to be rejected and risk further instability?

So we are on the U.S.-imposed deadline (exactly what it is) for the new constitution. Maybe that is not such a bad thing; Iraq needs stability and what more would be achieved in ten days? The tough negotiations might just have been pushed off to the end anyway. I'm not there, I can't say what else they might have done, but it is rather heavy-handed of the administration to exert such pressure on the drafting commission and then have Khalilzad talk about how the constitution should reflect a historic social compact, or whatever he said like that. Again, though, what more would have been done with a 15-day extension?

And a few hundred miles to the west disengagement from Gaza has begun and I will comment on the coming days on its progress... but it is certainly an exciting time for Gazans and for observers of the situation in Palestine/Israel.

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