BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi efforts to draft a new constitution are weakened by the lack of political experience within the minority Sunni Arab community, the prime minister's spokesman said Sunday. Laith Kuba said the process to draw up Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein constitution will be hindered if any group is "marginalized."
Sunni Arabs (search), who enjoyed great influence when their patron Saddam ruled Iraq, have fallen from power and are calling for a greater say within a parliamentary committee that is drawing up a constitution. Their leaders claim they have lost out to Iraq's majority Shiite community and the U.S.-allied Kurds, who swept to power in historic Jan. 30 national elections.
Iraq's Kurdish community has enjoyed relative autonomy in the northern Kurdistan (search) region since the early 1990s, under the protection of a U.S.-controlled no-fly zone barring Saddam's warplanes from flying over the area. The region has also established its own parliament-like assembly to control affairs.
Kuba said this has given Iraqi Kurds (search) greater political experience than Sunni Arabs, which could be a disadvantage for the latter in trying to have a bigger say in the country's future.
"The most powerful [force in drafting the constitution] might be the Kurdish parties because they have had experience in this field, but the weakest side might be the Sunnis because it is the first time they entered true negotiations," Kuba said during a press conference.
He did not explain why he thought the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari had the necessary experience. Although Shiites make up an estimated 60 percent of the population, they were suppressed under Saddam's secular Sunni-dominated regime.
"I believe this might be the weak point in the constitutional process, which is Sunni parties might lack experience," he said.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said during the week that Sunnis may receive an additional 20 to 25 seats on the 55-member constitutional committee, which currently includes just two Sunni Arabs.
But there is widespread reluctance by many Shiite Muslim politicians to grant Sunnis more than 14 seats — the same number as Kurds.
Sunni alienation from the political process is seen as a driving force behind Iraq's raging insurgency, which has killed more than 930 people since the country's new Shiite-dominated government was announced April 28.
"It doesn't serve the interest of any side if any other party is marginalized," Kuba said.