IRI Vice President Testifies on Success of Iraq’s Constitutional Referendum

Washington, DC – Judy Van Rest, Executive Vice President of IRI, testified today before Judy Van Rest speaks with chairman Christopher Shays following Tuesday’s hearing.the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations chaired by Congressman Christopher Shays (CT-4).

Van Rest highlighted the success of Iraq’s constitutional referendum held on October 15, 2005, and Iraqi civil society for its contribution to the democratic process, “One of the most notable developments of these past months has been the beginning of political maturation of Iraqis by their participation in political dialogue, negotiation, compromise and voting.  Largely unnoticed, the sea change taking place in Iraq’s political culture has unfortunately been overshadowed by the terrorism and violence that have dominated headlines around the world.  The emergence of an organized and vocal Iraqi civil society has been one of the truly great, but largely unheralded, stories.”

In addressing the progress over the past year, Van Rest lauded Iraqis who, despite the threat of violence, participated in the political process.  She recognized the efforts and sacrifices made by Iraqis who ran for public office; organized two elections in less than a year; worked at polling stations throughout the country; conducted voter education and get-out-the-vote activities for the January 30 elections and the constitutional referendum and turned out in large numbers to vote on January 30 and again on October 15.

Recognizing U.S. supported programs are making a critical difference in Iraq, Van Rest told the committee, “It will take years, and not months, for Iraqis to repair the damage to their governing institutions that resulted from 30 years of Ba’athist dictatorship and corruption.  We have seen repeatedly in the course of post authoritarian political transitions in other parts of the world that democratizing processes can be delayed or derailed as a result of ineffective or failed post authoritarian governments. Technical training and assistance in the areas of policy analysis and design, project management and communications, among other things, will be essential for at least the next several years.”

To help Iraq prepare for the January 30 elections and the constitutional referendum, IRI worked with members of the Iraqi National Assembly, the Constitutional Committee and civil society groups in conducting numerous nationwide voter education and get-out-the-vote campaigns.  IRI’s partners, aired more than 300 hours of political process related television programming, printed and distributed more than two million booklets, flyers and posters to inform the public about voting procedures and constitutionalism.  Prior to the October 15 referendum, they conducted 1,400 constitutional workshops throughout the country, reaching more than 57,000 Iraqis.

Since the summer of 2003, IRI has conducted a multi-faceted program aimed at promoting democracy in Iraq.  Toward this end, IRI works with political parties, civil society groups, and government officials and administrators.  In support of these efforts, IRI also conducts numerous public opinion research projects and assists its Iraqi partners in the production of radio and television ads and programs.

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