Votes are being counted in Iraq’s landmark referendum on a new constitution. Election officials say partial results could be available later today, but it is likely to take several days for the outcome to become clear. If the constitution passes Iraq will go to the polls again in December to elect a new, four-year parliament.
A “No” vote would force the country’s warring factions back to the drawing board, limiting December’s election to a new interim government to redraft the charter. A massive security clampdown prevented any serious insurgent attacks on voting day, with only scattered strikes reported around the country.
Conditions in many areas were described as calm, in contrast to the violence of January’s parliamentary election when rebels carried out dozens of deadly strikes. Sunni Arabs – who largely boycotted January’s vote – were reported to have come out in force, many of them saying they wanted the charter to fail.
Most of Iraq’s 18 provinces were expected to back the constitution after Shi’ite and Kurdish leaders tailored many of its provisions to their needs. But it could still be blocked if two-thirds of the voters in at least three provinces reject it.