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WikiLeaks: 2005-09-21: 05BAGHDAD3898: Constitution Referendum Prospects

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 at 04:18 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05BAGHDAD3898 2005-09-21 13:17 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003898 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2015 
Classified By: Political Counselor Robert Ford 
for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Most of our contacts anticipate that 
the draft constitution will pass in the October 15 
national referendum, but that some predominantly Sunni 
Arab provinces may vote against it.  The results of a 
recent UN poll, passed to POL on a confidential basis, 
suggest that three provinces, Anbar, Ninewa and 
Salahaddin, might vote against the draft constitution 
by sufficient margins to defeat the draft entirely in 
the referendum.  The poll was based on a small sample 
group and cannot be viewed as authoritative.   That 
said, with the exception of a few moderates, Arab 
Sunni leaders are urging voters to reject the draft 
constitution.  Shia and Kurd leaders, by contrast, 
generally are urging voters to approve the draft.  The 
UN poll, and our contacts, indicate there is strong 
support for the draft so far in predominantly Shia and 
Kurdish provinces.  Intimidation of Sunni Arab voters, 
the public stance of influential Shia cleric Muqtada 
al-Sadr, and the votes of Turcomen, Christian and 
other minority group votes in key governorates are key 
variables that could affect the referendum outcome. 
In Opposition - The Arab Sunnis 
2. (C) With few exceptions, most Arab Sunni leaders 
are opposed to the draft constitution.  Sunni members 
added to the Constitutional Committee continue to meet 
but have not compiled a short list of desired changes 
to the draft constitution.  They have also been unable 
to agree on a common position on the draft.  One of 
the most influential Sunni Arab political parties, the 
Iraqi Islamic Party, on September 21 issued a public 
statement urging Iraqis to reject the draft 
constitution.  The IIP said the constitution threatens 
Iraqi unity.  Meanwhile, Salah Mutlak of the National 
Dialogue has pledged to collect 5 million signatures 
on a petition opposing the constitution. 
3.  (C) In contrast, Saad al-Janabi of the Iraqi 
Republican Group has called on voters to approve the 
draft and to pursue changes in the next national 
assembly.  The position of key Sunni Arab tribal 
figures is still uncertain.  It is expected that most 
Sunni Arab politicians will call for a "no" vote but 
some, like National Assembly member Sheikh Abd al- 
Rahman Al-Nuaimi is calling for a "yes" vote and is 
organizing conferences to discuss the issue in his key 
Mosul district. 
In Support - The Shia 
4. (C) Most Shia Arabs strongly support the 
constitution.  Prominent Da'wa party leader Jawad al- 
Maliki said there should be no surprises with the 
referendum.  Even if some of the Shia are not happy 
with all parts of the draft, they will vote for it, he 
predicted to Poloff on September 19.  Nabil al- 
Mousawi, a Shia ally of Ahmed Chalabi from List 169, 
told PolOff on September 19 that he did not think 
opponents would be able to stop approval of the 
constitution in the referendum.  People want to move 
forward, he claimed. 
In Support - The Kurds 
4. (C) We expect the Kurds almost all will vote in 
favor, and their leaders are confident the draft will 
pass in the referendum.  Kurdish leader Fa'iq Ahmed 
Sha'ban al-Hag of the KDP said that there are no 
worries about the referendum passing but he does 
expect more violence by Sunni Arabs.  Another KDP 
leader, Kamaran Khairi Saeed, predicted to us 
September 19 that there would not be enough 
disgruntled Shia and angry Sunnis to reject the 
constitution.  In his view, passing the referendum 
will decrease the violence.  PUK constitution 
negotiator Fuad Masum has consistently predicted that 
while Anbar province and even Salah ad-Din province 
might vote against the draft in large numbers, the 
Sunni Arabs cannot assemble a 2/3 vote against the 
draft in any other governorate. 
Projections by Governorate 
5.  (C) Below is a governorate by governorate review 
of ethnic/religious makeup and projected vote in the 
Constitution Referendum based on UN polling data: 
Governorate  Ethnic/Rel       Referendum 
               Groups               Projection (No) 
-----------  ----------       ---------- 
Anbar    Sunni Arab           No   ** 
Babil    Shia                 Yes 
Baghdad        Mixed                Yes 
Basra    Shia                 Yes 
Diyala         Mixed Arab           leaning no (36%) 
Dohuk    Kurd                 Yes 
Erbil    Kurd                 Yes 
               Sunni Arab 
Karbala        Shia                 Yes 
Misan    Shia                 Yes 
Muthanna       Shia                 Yes 
               Sunni Arab 
Najaf    Shia                 Yes 
Ninewa         Sunni Arab           No (95%) 
               Some Kurd 
Qadissiya      Shia                 Yes 
Salahaddin   Sunni Arab       No (64%) 
Suleimaniya  Kurd             Yes 
               Sunni Arab 
Tameem         Kurd                 Yes 
(Kirkuk)       Turcomen 
             Sunni Arab 
Dhi Qar        Shia                 Yes 
Wasit    Shia                 Yes 
** - not polled because of security concerns. 
6. (C) We are very suspicious of the percentages of 
yes and no votes cited in the UN poll because the 
sample in each governorate was only about 200 poll 
respondents.  Such a figure likely has a high margin 
of error in governorates where the populations are 
particularly diverse, such as Ninewa and Diyala. 
Thus, we are very dubious that 95 percent of voters in 
Ninewa, with its substantial Kurdish vote, will come 
out against the draft in the referendum.  That said, 
the yes/no inclination tracks with what we hear 
anecdotally from our contacts and from assessments of 
Sunni Arab/Shia/Kurd sentiment tracked by IRI and 
State/INR polls.  The geographic analysis above 
suggests that since Sunni Arab opposition to the 
constitution is concentrated in a few governorates, 
some of which also have ambivalent minority group 
voters, the overall referendum outcome may be closer 
than the very confident Shia Islamists and Kurds 
Wild Cards - Minority Groups 
7.  (C)  Ethnic and religious minority groups, such as 
Turcomen, Assyrians and even Shebaks are concentrated 
mainly in Ninewa, Kirkuk and Diyala - provinces where 
the draft's passage is relatively more uncertain.  Our 
soundings among contacts in these areas suggests that 
their political leaders worry about a fully empowered 
Kurdish region.  We have heard worries expressed by 
some TNA members from these communities that the draft 
does not protect minority rights sufficiently.  Most 
of these communities leaders have not yet taken a 
formal position on the constitution but may urge their 
supporters to reject the draft, thus boosting "no" 
votes.  Reflecting the ambivalence that many of these 
minority groups feel, Yonadam Kanna of the Christian 
Assyrian Democratic Movement, told Poloff that he is 
unhappy with the constitution in principle. 
Another Wild Card - Muqtada Sadr 
8.  (C)  While we anticipate the mainstream of the 
Shia Islamist Coalition will vote for the draft 
constitution, there are rumblings about some Shia 
Islamists.  Prime Minister Jafari has been notably 
cool in public about the draft.  Perhaps more 
important is the influential Shia hard-line cleric, 
Muqtada al-Sadr.  Sadr is especially influential in 
Baghdad and the southern part of Iraq.  Abid Faisal 
Ahmaid al-Sahlani, a Shia secular parliamentarian from 
the southern city of Nasiriyah, cautioned Poloff on 
September 19 that Muqtada may highlight the water 
issue, calling for his supporters to reject the 
referendum.  There have been reports of Sunni efforts 
to form an anti-constitution coalition with Muqtada 
but these efforts have for now, been rebuffed by the 
Shia leader (reftel). 
9.  (C)  The draft text's treatment of control of 
water itself remains controversial.  National Assembly 
member Jawad Bulani, from the Shia Islamist Coalition, 
predicted to Poloff September 19 that many Shia would 
vote against the draft precisely because they perceive 
the Kurds received too much authority over water 
passing through Kurdistan.  He showed Poloff a 
petition with 100 National Assembly members' 
signatures calling for changes to the draft's language 
on water resources. 
Voter Intimidation - Another Unknown 
10.  (C)  Finally, Sunni Arab leaders' efforts to 
amass a 2/3 rejection vote in provinces such as 
Ninewa, Salah ad-Din and Diyala depend on large 
turnouts.  In January 2005 threats of attacks on 
voters and polling stations greatly diminished the 
turnout.  (As cited in the chart above, only 17 
percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Ninewa in 
January 2005, and only 29 percent in Salah ad-Din.)  A 
reduced Sunni Arab voter turnout will raise the likely 
proportion of Shia and Kurdish votes in these 
provinces and hence reduce the likelihood of a 2/3 
rejection vote in these mixed population governorates. 
10.  (C)  If we take the UN poll at face value, the 
outcome would be passage - barely, since the "no" vote 
in Salah ad-Din would just barely miss the cut-off of 
TAL article 61(c).  As we emphasized above, we do 
not/not take the numbers at face value.  Instead, we 
can imagine strong "no" votes in Sunni Arab areas, 
such as Anbar and large parts of Ninewa, Salah ad-Din 
and Diyala.  Reaching the 2/3 threshold would appear 
to be much harder.  Unless Sadr urges rejection of the 
draft constitution, the key governorates to watch are 
Ninewa, Salah ad-Din and Diyala.  If Sadr were to come 
out against the draft, then we might need to consider 
Baghdad as well, given the two million people living 
in Sadr City and the Sunni Arab concentration in north 
and western Baghdad.  Septel will address our thoughts 
on the most likely outcomes after the referendum. 


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