IRAQ: Important Dates in 2005

February 8, 2005

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

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What are the most important dates for Iraq this year?

January 30: Elections held for a transitional assembly.

On January 30, Iraqis in Iraq and 14 foreign countries defied death threats and violence to vote for 275 members of a new transitional assembly. They also cast ballots for 18 provincial governorate councils with 41 members each, except for the Baghdad governorate council, which will have 51 members. And residents of northern Iraq voted for 111 members of the Kurdish regional assembly, a semi-autonomous governing body.

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After the votes are counted and the results certified-a process that election officials say will take several days-the new transitional assembly will take office. The assembly will choose a president and two deputy presidents from among its members. The assembly will then write a permanent constitution to take the place of the interim constitution currently in effect. That constitution, also known as the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), was approved March 8, 2004, by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), a 25-member body appointed by the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority. The IGC disbanded after sovereignty was handed over to Iraqis on June 30, 2004.

August 15: Draft of a permanent constitution written.

The transitional assembly will draft a new, permanent constitution. If it cannot complete a draft by August 15, assembly members can petition-by August 1-for a six-month extension to complete their work. The transitional assembly could name Sunnis-who may win few or no seats in the assembly because of low turnout in Sunni areas-to the committee created to write the constitution, says Marina Ottaway, a senior associate and democracy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "That way there’s some wiggle room" to keep Sunnis involved in the government, she says.

October 15, 2005: Public referendum on draft constitution.

Once the constitution is written, the transitional assembly is required to present it to the people for a vote. If a majority approves it the draft, elections for a permanent government can go forward. If voters in three or more provinces reject the draft constitution by a two-thirds majority, the constitution fails and the transitional assembly is dissolved.

December 15, 2005: Elections for a permanent government held.

If the draft constitution is approved, the December 15 elections are for a permanent government. If the constitution is rejected, elections held December 15 would be for a new transitional assembly, which would write another constitution and submit it to the people again within one year.

December 31, 2005. Permanent government takes office.

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