Iraq's constitution "seems assured" of passing, according to the Associated Press. That's either a great victory for the democratic process or another step towards Islamic theocracy, depending on how your political team chooses to spin the results' dozens of potential consequences. The most important issue is whether this brings the country closer to or further from full-fledged civil war, and the answer to that depends on whether all those new Sunni voters have been drawn into the political system for good, as opposed to giving this voting thing a try and then throwing up their hands in disgust at where it's gotten them.
Patrick Cockburn laid out the U.S.'s best hope for retaining Sunni involvement in Saturday's Independent:
Up to last week Sunnis were united in their opposition to the constitution because they oppose federalism, devolving power to Kurds and Shia. But under a deal this week the constitution can be amended by the National Assembly to be chosen in an election on 15 December. Since Sunnis are likely to vote, unlike in January when they abstained, there will be more Sunni members of parliament. New amendments will then be voted on in a second referendum.
The compromise was brokered by Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, far more skilful than previous US envoys in Iraq, who sat in on all negotiations.
In a mostly bleak dispatch for Back to Iraq, Christopher Albritton argues that "The absolute worst-case scenario is if the Sunnis come close to defeating the constitution, but fail. There will be accusations of vote-rigging and any political momentum the Sunnis felt was moving their way will be spent."
The hawks at Strategy Page stress the best news for the Iraqi regime:
The government is getting better at running national elections under the threat of terrorist attacks. The legislative elections last January had fewer than ten million people voting (69 percent of those registered), and over 40 people killed by terrorists opposed to the elections. This vote, on the new constitution, brought out over ten million, and left fewer than ten dead.
I can't vouch for those precise figures, but the body count is definitely much lower -- great news from any humane perspective. On the other hand, Albritton notes that "violence in the last 19 days...killed more than 450 Iraqi civilians. Saturday's quiet could indicate that the draconian security measures that banned almost all vehicular traffic, international travel and movement between provinces were effective in curbing insurgents' attacks. Or it might mean the insurgents just decided to keep their powder dry until a more politically opportune time." (Seems to me that those options are not mutually exclusive.)