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[casi] IPO Report - Iraqi Constitution: Iraqi Thoughts, Dec 8, 2003

Report - Iraqi Constitution: Iraqi Thoughts
December 8, 2003

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Executive Summary

Iraq has embarked on a transition towards democracy and a key step in this
process will be the conception of a new constitution. This report, a humble
first step in the necessary process of engagement with ordinary Iraqis, was
put together following numerous roundtable discussions with young Iraqi men
and women in Baghdad, Al-Ramadi, Najaf, Nassiriyah, and London.

Iraq would be most stable under a federal state structure where many powers
are decentralized. A federal state seems to be agreed upon by most political
parties based on Iraq's ethnic diversity, but arguably the most powerful
case for federalism does not rest on the country's diverse ethnic makeup but
on its vulnerability to dictatorship.

Using the existing eighteen-province arrangement serves as a good starting
point to defining constituent units since it avoids cutting new borders
which could be a recipe for future unrest:

- Baghdad, owing to the size of its population and political importance,
would need to be a constituent unit of its own.

Some provinces will also need to be awarded their own constituent unit

- Kirkuk, since it is likely to be a political flashpoint owing to its
economic importance as an oil producing province and its multiethnic mix;
- An-Najaf, to give it the freedom to cater for its unique religious and
spiritual importance which would not be appropriate in other regions in the
- Basra, since unlike all other provinces in southern Iraq, it has a
significant Sunni Arab population whose voices would otherwise be drowned
out if Basra was amalgamated with any other southern province;
- and possibly Ninawa (Mosul), based on its potential to be another
political flashpoint, but it may also we worth considering merging all or
parts of this province with neighboring constituent units.

Logical mergers of provinces into constituent units would include:

- Dahuk, Arbil and As-Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, since they have had a
local government for several years;
- the sparsely populated provinces of Al-Anbar, Salah Al-Din and Diyala;
- the ancient and densely populated provinces of Babil, Karbala and
- the tribal heartlands of Al-Muthana and Dhi Qar;
- and the eastern provinces of Wasit and Maysan.

In dividing power between central and local governments the aim must be to
give regions significant authority so that they can practice and accommodate
for local norms and culture, but at the same time maintain unity and
equality in the country in more than just name. For Iraq this should entail,
to some degree, the sharing of many powers such as environment, health,
broadcasting, and labor regulation.

Education is likely to be a sensitive issue with a struggle between building
unity and respecting cultural identity. A possible solution would be to have
key stages in education, defined and examined centrally, at the ages of 12,
15 and 18, with education in all other years regionally defined.

Naturally there should be some form of federal law, but it is essential that
each region should be given the power to draw up its own laws and
punishments to accommodate for local norms and culture. This can be
illustrated in the example of An-Najaf, which will likely want to ban the
sale of alcohol which would not be appropriate in many other areas of the
In addition to core powers generally allocated to central government, powers
that would be better suited to remain with central government to maintain
the unity of a developing country such as Iraq should include
communications, postal services, and the oil industry - which will probably
be the basis of the country's economy for at least the next decade.

The separation of executive and legislative powers in a presidential system
and a bicameral parliament containing equally powerful chambers would be
necessary in Iraq to build significant checks and balances which can prevent
Iraq from relapsing into dictatorship. All offices of central government
should be directly elected to give the positions legitimacy and increase
accountability. The first chamber should be elected in general elections
through a proportional representation system thus preventing "lost votes",
improving country unity and focusing the agenda on political policies and
not individual popularity. The second chamber, which would allow for
regional representation, should give each constituent unit equal seating.

Arguably the most important aspect which needs to be successfully
implemented is the rigorous application and maintenance of individual
rights. As well as identifying the rights of citizens, based on the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the constitution should provide a
mechanism for the implementation of such rights. A parliamentary ombudsman
should be set up, with a mandate to review all legislation and its
implementation to ensure that it does not impinge upon any rights detailed
in the constitution. In addition, a commission should be established to
provide a mechanism whereby individuals can approach and register alleged
violations of individual rights and thus provide regulation from the top and

The most effective way of preventing the emergence of a theocratic regime
and to move politics away from the mosque is to include in the politic arena
religious parties which are committed to only working within the legal
infrastructure. The unnatural secularization of the country would inevitably
alienate the majority of the population and strengthen support for

This report was provided by the Iraqi Prospect Organization:

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