The story of the Iraqi Accountability and Justice and Election Commissions’ banning of 500 candidates from the March 2010 voting for alleged Baathist ties has taken a few new turns. First, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally come out in favor of the ban. He said that the decision of the Accountability and Justice Commission should be adhered to. He also commented that the process should not be politicized, which ignores the fact that the Commission members have used it as a partisan tool since its inception in 2003, and that its head, Ali al-Lami, is running as a candidate for the Iraqi National Alliance. Second, the Election Commission is debating whether just the 400 politicians are barred from participating in the balloting or all their parties as well. As Reidar Visser of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs points out, there is no legal basis in the constitution or election law that mentions blocking entire parties from running. Of course, the Accountability and Justice Commission’s members haven’t even been appointed by parliament, but everyone is going along with their decisions, so legality may not matter in this situation. Third, a document has emerged that allegedly shows that Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front and the most prominent politician banned, had contact with Iraqi intelligence in 2002. This was supposedly used in the Accountability and Justice Commission’s ruling against him. There is no reporting on whether the document is real or not, and again, given the circumstances, may not matter. Fourth, Mutlaq and all those banned can appeal their cases to a 7-member board of judges that was just created a few days ago. There is a concern that they may not be able to go through all the cases before the March 2010 balloting however, which may exclude candidates even if they are ultimately found innocent. Finally, there is news that the Accountability and Justice Commission may not be finished and could demand that a total of 1,200 candidates be blocked from running.
It was hoped that the 2010 parliamentary vote would be a continuation of the 2009 provincial elections where nationalist parties did much better than ethnosectarian ones, and Sunnis came out in high numbers. This in turn, would usher in a new wave of politicians to replace a group of lawmakers that have achieved very little in their four years in office, and are very unpopular as a result. The decisions of the Accountability and Justice and Election Commissions however have not only marked a return to sectarian politics, but also threatened to undermine the legitimacy of the 2010 balloting, along with bringing into question the legality of the entire Iraqi political process. Unless some institution challenges the chicanery going on, this fiasco will only continue, and could get worse.
AK News, “Electoral commission discusses the issue of excluded entities and candidates,” 1/17/10
Roads To Iraq, “Three Sunni candidates for the presidency, Zebari to the Vice-President,” 1/17/10
Sly, Liz, “Iraqi prime minister backs ban on 500 election candidates,” Los Angeles, 1/17/10
Visser, Reidar, “The Bloc That Has No De-Baathification Worries,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 1/17/10
- “Constitutional Disintegration (Part III): The IHEC Is Making Up the Law,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 1/15/10