On Saturday, the Iraqi people will vote to accept or reject a constitution that has been written by a group of politicians, religious leaders and scholars.
When the first leaders of the United States were coming up with the document that laid out the new country's basic laws more than 200 years ago, each state legislature had to approve -- or ratify -- the Constitution. In Iraq, however, ordinary citizens will get to have their say.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who was The Post's chief reporter in Iraq for several years, answers some questions about the election.
Do Iraqis like the proposed constitution?
Some do and some don't. Iraq has three main groups: Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds, who live in the northern part of the country. All of them are Muslims who practice the religion of Islam. Most Shiites (pronounced SHEE-ites) and the Kurds support the constitution as it is written. Many Sunni (SOON-ee) Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population, oppose it. Sunni Arabs, who had a lot of power when President Saddam Hussein was in control, think the constitution is not fair to them.
Why don't the Sunnis support the constitution?
They object to a section that would give the Kurds and the Shiites the opportunity to form regional governments in areas that have lots of oil. The Sunnis could form their own governments, too, but their area doesn't have any oil. Iraq is one of the world's big oil producers.
Our constitution says there shouldn't be a national religion, but the Iraqi constitution seems to follow Islamic law. Why is that?
Many Iraqis do not share the same views as our Founding Fathers did about keeping government and religion separate. About 95 percent of Iraqis are Muslims, and many of them want religion to have a central role in public life. But not everyone in Iraq agrees. Lots of women are concerned that the religious parts of the constitution could limit their rights.
What will happen next as the Iraqi people set up their own government?
If the constitution is approved, Iraqis will hold elections for a new government later this year. If the constitution isn't approved, the Iraqi people will have to elect a new national assembly. The members of this parliament, something like our Congress, would then try to write another constitution that the Iraqi people would vote on.
It has been 21/2 years since U.S. forces invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Why are people in Iraq fighting and killing U.S. troops?
Most Iraqis do not believe in violence. The people who are attacking U.S. troops have different reasons for doing so. Some just want the Americans to leave. Others object to the government that is taking shape. Some of them want Sunnis to be in charge of the country. Others want a strict religious government. Regardless, they think that attacks on U.S. troops will cause the Americans to leave and make it easier to bring about the changes they want.
What is life like for an average Iraqi family?
Life has become increasingly difficult. Most families in Baghdad have only about 12 hours of electricity a day. Sometimes no water comes out of the faucets because there is not enough electricity to make the water pumps work. Going to school has become dangerous in many areas.
When will the Iraqi people be running their own government without U.S. troops there?
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have joined the country's new army, but they need more training. As Iraqi soldiers become more skilled, U.S. troops will start coming home. That could begin as early as next year, according to some U.S. government officials.