Sunni Split

In order for the new Iraqi constitution to be defeated, it was necessary for two-thirds or more of the voters in three or more of the country’s eighteen provinces to vote against it. Since there are four provinces where Sunnis are in the majority, it was not inconceivable that that could happen. It has been widely stated, as in this USA Today article, that Iraq’s Sunnis tried hard to stop the constitution:

Iraq’s constitution seemed assured of passage Sunday despite strong opposition from Sunni Arabs, who voted in surprisingly high numbers in an effort to stop it.

The results we’ve seen so far, however, don’t support that characterization. There were, indeed, two heavily Sunni provinces, Anbar and Salaheddin, where voters rejected the constitution; in Salaheddin, 78% voted against it.

But in the other two Sunni-majority provinces, Diyala and Ninevah, it appears that most Sunnis supported the new constitution. In Diyala, 70% supported the referendum, with only 20% opposed. In Ninevah, with more than 80% of polling places reporting, 79% had voted in favor. There is no way to get those numbers unless most Sunnis voted “yes.”

So it appears that there is a split among Iraqi Sunnis that is largely geographic, and that a great many Sunnis do support the constitution and Iraq’s fledgling democracy, even though it will mean that they lose their historic dominance over the country.


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