Buffalo Law Review

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On October 15, 2005 an Iraq ravaged by a civil war spawned by the 2003 American invasion and subsequent occupation voted to decide the fate of a permanent constitution for the country. Although many Sunni Arabs took part in the vote, the referendum lost in the three governorates where they form a majority. But the constitution was approved because opponents only succeeded in recording "no" votes larger than two-thirds in only two of Iraq's eighteen provinces, in effect one province short of a veto. A two-thirds rejection in three provinces would have doomed the charter and the transition to a regime more autonomous of the American occupation forces. However, Iraq teeters on collapse months after the referendum, national elections, and the formation of a so-called national government. Only a popularly legitimate accommodation of minority and group rights in a democratic constitutional framework, a virtually impossible challenge, can avert the disintegration of Iraq. The legislature, which is dominated by the Shia, ought to step back from the temptation of a theocracy, and instead look to equal protection and anti-discrimination norms for minorities as it constructs a lasting constitutional framework. Otherwise, the failure to address the question of minority and group rights will result in the disintegration of Iraq.