Fast Facts: Iraqi Constitution Issues

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The following are major issues blocking agreement on the new Iraqi constitution:

Federalism: The constitution states that individual provinces can declare themselves a region and unite with other regions if certain legal steps are taken. This would enable Shiite provinces of the south to unite into a giant Shiite federated region. It could also allow for expansion of the Kurdish self-ruled region at the expense of Arab areas. Sunni Arabs fear this would lead to the disintegration of the country and open up the whole area to Iranian influence.

Saddam's Baath Party: The constitution bans not only the Baath Party but all its symbols and equates it with a racist or terrorist organization. Some Sunnis wanted no reference to the Baath Party at all. The charter also gives new status to a committee organized to purge former Baath members from government organizations. Sunnis held dominant posts in the Baath Party.

Election Rules: The Sunnis want to require a two-thirds majority vote in parliament to elect a president and prime minister, claiming that the Shiite numbers are so vast as to make a simple majority nearly automatic, thereby denying the Sunnis a say.

Iraq's Identity: The constitution describes Iraq as "part of the Islamic world, and the Arabs are part of the Arab nation," a concession to non-Arab Kurds and Turkomen. Sunni Arabs consider Iraq a leading Arab country with a rich Arab history and consider any other description an assault on all Arabs. The draft also raises Kurdish, a non-Arabic language, to equal status with Arabic.