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3/15/04 - IRAQ MOVES ON - 2004-03-15

The Iraqi Governing Council’s approval of an interim constitution is a major achievement. The document, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, provides for a democratic governing framework, a bill of rights, and an independent judiciary. It also paves the way for a permanent constitution and free elections to choose Iraq’s leaders.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Governing Council member and Shiite leader, says that Iraqis “are a unified people, and there are strong ties between the Sunnis and the Shiites. There are strong ties between the Arabs and the Kurds, between the Muslims and the non-Muslims and between all the different sects in Iraq.” Iraqis, says Mr. Hakim, “will not step away from our responsibilities, and we will stay on until this process is finished and we will not stop.”

Now that the Transitional Administrative Law is in place, Iraqis can proceed with the plan to establish an interim government to take over on June 30th. Dan Senor, senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, says the plan is “to establish a caucus-chosen interim government”:

“It’s a complex plan. . . . And the reason it is complex is we are trying to hand over sovereignty to a governing body that will be viewed as legitimate and credible in the eyes of the Iraqi people, but is indirectly elected. And it is often hard to strike the right balance between credibility and indirect elections -- indirect accountability, if you will.”

The U.S. and the United Nations both have said that direct elections in the next several months would be technically difficult to manage, if not impossible. Iraq has no voter rolls, no political party laws, and there has been no national census in twenty-years. Mr. Senor says that while work is underway to choose an interim government through a series of caucuses, the U.S. has “made clear all along that [it] would be open to clarifications”:

“We are welcoming the input of individuals and organizations that have expertise in the area, particularly the United Nations, which has issued a very helpful report on this particular issue in terms of next steps.”

The Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U-N, and others are now working to make Iraqi’s transition from dictatorship to democracy as smooth as possible.