In Iraq, banned Sunni candidates back in the race
A ban on hundreds of (mostly Sunni) candidates in Iraq was lifted Wednesday. The ban was reversed after senior Sunni politicians threatened to boycott the March 7 national election.
(Page 2 of 2)
“Many underestimate the importance – the urgency of this crisis,” says political analyst Haider al-Musawi. “Saleh al-Mutlaq and [banned fellow Sunni politician] Thafir al-Ani represent 35 years of oppression to the Shiites – who are a majority. They were not very smart to make statements like ‘Baathists will have 40 seats in the next parliament,’ and similar ones that scare people even more.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Sunnis largely boycotted Iraq’s first national election in 2005, but later came to realize that the boycott simply removed them from decision-making in Iraq. Despite the latest de-Baathification moves, in which Iraq’s Accountability and Justice Commission had rejected 572 candidates, other politicians say the latest Sunni threat was a political bluff.
“Now there is awareness and conviction that boycotting will not serve any purpose,” says Dhia al-Shakerchi, an independent Shiite parliamentarian.
Return of nationalism?
“It has become evident to the people that the religious parties – whether Sunni or Shiite – were the womb in which sectarianism was conceived,” says Mr. Shakerchi. “You can feel this in the way the political parties themselves have changed their platforms from Islamist to nationalistic.”
“The secular trend is seeking to establish itself,” says al-Shakerchi. “I believe that Iraqis who seek to bring this about will not be satisfied with being left out and absented from the political process and fair representation.”
The election campaign officially kicks off on Feb. 7, but some large printing houses are already working three shifts a day to keep up with the demand for campaign materials from more than 6,000 candidates.
Still, some Iraqis are already pushing to get out the vote. Leaflets handed out on Wednesday in some Shiite districts were titled “vote for your future.” “Vote so that Baath will not rule again,” instructs the leaflet. “No to terrorism.”
More bombings of Shiite pilgrims
On the back was the full printing of a Shiite prayer specific to the 40th-day mourning ceremony that culminates on Friday, in which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travel to Karbala, scene of the 680AD martyrdom of one of the most revered Shiite saints, Imam Hussein.
“Choose the path of Al-Hussein; not the path of Al-Baath,” read the leaflet. “Vote so that our mothers will not be bereaved [for the death of their children].”
Violence once again on Wednesday visited the columns of pilgrims making their way to the holy city of Karbala. A car bomb in the town of Twereej, southeast of Karbala, killed 21 pilgrims and injured another 128, according to Iraqi police. A booby-trapped bicycle targeting a police patrol injured another 22.
Sunni militants have for years targeted large Shiite religious ceremonies in Iraq. Pilgrim Haider Judy Kathum was not deterred by the attacks. “They strengthen our resolution,” the father of one said in Karbala. “The explosions will never stop us and those of us who are killed are martyrs – they are proud, as are their families.”
Sahar Issa in Baghdad contributed to this report