The twenty-five members of Iraq’s governing council had a free, open, and spirited debate, as they completed a framework for governing their country. On March 8th, Iraq’s leaders approved an interim constitution. The signing paves the way for Iraqis to regain their sovereignty as scheduled on June 30th.
Governing council president Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum says that Iraqis are “standing in a historical moment to lay the strong foundation for rebuilding a new Iraq...that protects the dignity of the human being and protects human rights.”
The interim constitution says the new Iraq will be “federal, democratic, and pluralistic.” It calls for elections to be held by January 31st, 2005. The interim constitution protects the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, the right to organize political parties, and the right to worship according to one’s own conscience. Another clause says that if two-thirds of the voters in any three Iraqi provinces reject a permanent constitution, the permanent constitution would have to be revised.
President George W. Bush says, “This transitional administrative law will...move [Iraq] toward a democratic future”:
“Iraqis will, for the first time in decades, live under the clear protections of a written bill of rights. Under this law, all Iraqis will be treated equally. No religious or ethnic groups will be favored, and none will suffer discrimination at the hands of the state.”
The provisional constitution will lead to a permanent document that will be drafted in the coming months.
“Difficult work in creating a new Iraqi government remains,” says President Bush. “Yet Iraqis are equal to the tasks before them. The Iraqi people have shown the world that they are fully capable of living in freedom.”