US expresses first concerns over Iraq election results
US Ambassador Christopher Hill today expressed concern that nearly two months after the Iraq election, a government has not been formed. Complicating the drawn-out process, Iraqi officials today disqualified two winning candidates.
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“We consider the decision [to disqualify 52 candidates] a clear politicizing of the judiciary. It’s impossible to protect democracy without an independent judicial system,” says Mohammad Tawfiq from the Iraqiya list. “Democracy is in danger and politicizing the judiciary pushes the country towards dictatorship.”Skip to next paragraph
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In an indication of the depth of distrust between election officials and the controversial commission set up to screen Baathists, Mr. Lami blames the delay on the electoral commission not acting to bar the candidates once they were banned.
“They are liars,” he says, referring to the announcement only on Monday that the 52 candidates could not run for office. “They sent us the names of the candidates to check on March 3 and we responded the same day.”
Under the law, the banned candidates still have a month to appeal the ruling. The Justice and Accountability has come under fire because it is headed by two Shiite politicians who themselves were running for parliament. Most of the banned candidates banned by the commission are secular or Sunni. The commission was also criticized for how it handled the allegations of Baathist ties and because the right of appeal was considered insufficient.
Iraq electoral commission scrambling
The Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) confirms the disqualification of the candidates.
“We haven’t yet received the judicial decision but we knew about it through our legal representative at the court that it will require the electoral commission to disqualify 52 candidates and the votes they won. Among those are one or two winning members,” says IHEC commissioner Ayad al-Kinani.
He says the electoral commission will delete those votes and then lower the number of votes that a candidate would have needed to win in each of the provinces where candidates were disallowed.
IHEC has been scrambling to comply with a directive by an appeals court for a recount of all ballots in the Baghdad area – more than 20 percent of the national total. Officials who had seen the ruling said it appeared to have been based on ‘the possibility’ rather than evidence that there had been fraud. The recount will delay certifying the results for at least another 10 days once it begins.
Hill: Iraq's judiciary tested by political pressure
Asked whether the United States viewed the election decisions as politically motivated, Hill said the judiciary was being "tested" by political pressure and indicated it may be failing the test.
“I would see this as a close election that has caused great strain and great challenges to all of Iraq’s nascent democratic institutions and I would say the court system has not been immune to this challenge,” he said.
“The worry is that this is a country that has an economy that is barely just getting itself off the ground. This is a country that has been beset by some of the worst violence that anyone has ever seen in peacetime. This is a country that clearly needs to move ahead,” Hill added. “I think anytime [Iraq] goes through those long transitional periods where you don’t even have a parliament in session there are reasons to be concerned about whether they are keeping up the pace.”
Laith Hammoudi contributed from Baghdad.