Iraqis Adopt Constitution, Progress Toward Democracy Amid Fears

Iraq's constitution was approved, election officials said Tuesday, after a 10-day audit that confirmed a fair majority vote, marking a major step in democracy and peace.

"It's a landmark day in the history of Iraq," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, according to The Associated Press. “The political process is continuing to move forward in Iraq, and it is an encouraging sign to see more and more people participating in the process.”

While the Sunni Party led violent insurgencies and made failed attempts to produce the two-thirds opposing vote needed in three of Iraq's 18 provinces, the constitution was adopted by the "yes" vote of millions who had gone to the polls on Oct. 15. Approval was counted at 78.59 percent with 21.41 percent having voted against it, according to the election commission.

The adopted charter paves the way for the Dec. 15 election of a new permanent parliament which is to be installed by Dec. 31.

"The President commended the Iraqi people for moving forward on the political process and passing a constitution," said McClellan at Tuesday's press briefing.

Although a sign of progress and a "significant milestone" for democracy in the Arab Middle East, as earlier stated by Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, the approved constitution has yet to calm the fears of Christian and human rights groups.

"We fear the powerful role given to Islam in the constitution – a role that is likely to negate the positive language on religious freedom and other individual human rights," said Shea before the adoption of the charter.

The language of the new Iraq charter includes the protection of human and religious rights but at the same time declares Islam as the basic source of legislation.

Many had voted in favor of the constitution to achieve peace and bring an end to the violent attacks. Some, however, fear the victory may fuel Sunni-led insurgency.

Nevertheless, McClellan highlighted the vote of the Iraqi people signified a positive step against terrorism and toward democracy.

"It's important that we continue to support the Iraqi people as they take steps to build a lasting democracy."