Iraq election campaign opens with concern over sectarian disqualifications
Campaigning for the Iraq parliamentary election scheduled for March opened quietly on Friday, shadowed by concerns that some candidates with ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party could be disqualified.
Campaigning opened on Friday for Iraq’s parliamentary elections in an election season marked by high-profile attacks and overshadowed by the banning of more than 500 candidates for alleged ties to former dictator Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The legal start of the campaign had been delayed for five days while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government and the courts wrangled over whether the "accountability and justice" commission was legally entitled to ban the candidates. The committee is expected to announce on Friday that about 30 of the candidates had won appeals and can run in elections.
The appeals process though withheld the ban on two of the most prominent Sunni politicians Salah al-Mutlaq and Dhafer al-Ani, elected in the last parliament and both running as part of the secular Iraqiya list headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a major rival to Prime Minister Maliki. Dr. Allawi was himself a member of the Baath party in the 1960s and early '70s, but he eventually broke from Hussein and became a leading exile pushing for regime change.
The list of disqualified candidates includes a significant number of Shiites as well as Sunnis. But the committee, headed by two Shiite politicians who themselves are running for parliament, is widely seen by Iraqis as pursuing a crackdown on secular candidates who pose a threat to the ruling religious Shiite parties that came to power after Hussein's ouster.
“It is all politically motivated,” says Saria Jassam, a college employee who lives in Fallujah. “ Why they didn’t revoke their parliamentary immunity one year or two years ago? It is obvious; they know that Al Mutlak is a patriot.”
Coming to terms with Iraq’s Baathist past has emerged as a major theme in this election, which features 6,500 candidates. This is seen as the first parliamentary poll that would return a truly representative government after Sunni Arabs, who felt disenfranchised by a US-backed, Shiite-dominated political system, largely boycotted the 2005 election.