THE RULE OF LAW….The New York Times reports that Iraqi leaders have changed the rules for ratification of their new constitution:

Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters ? rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots ? reject it in at least 3 of the 18 provinces.

….Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds would both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil.

Italics mine. Obviously the idea is to guarantee passage of the constitution, but this interpretation seems self-defeating, doesn’t it? After all, here’s what Article 61 of the Transitional Law says:

The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.

If “voters” means “all registered voters,” then the constitution has to be approved by a majority of all registered voters in the first place ? which isn’t very likely. So how does this help things? The Times explains:

In their vote on Sunday, the Shiite and Kurdish members interpreted the law as follows: the constitution will pass if a majority of ballots are cast for it; it will fail if two-thirds of registered voters in three or more provinces vote against it. In other words, the lawmakers designated two different meanings for the word “voters” in one passage.

It would appear that Iraq’s leaders have learned well from their Republican mentors. It’s sort of like their own personal nuclear option.

Aside from the obvious travesty of democracy in play here, what’s really odd about all this is that most of the recent reports from Iraq have indicated that it was unlikely the Sunnis would successfully reject the constitution anyway. But I guess the Shiites and Kurds must have felt differently. I wonder what they know that Western reporters apparently don’t?