Appeals made to Iraqis against banning of election candidates


APPEALS HAVE been made to the Iraqi government to postpone its drive to marginalise alleged members of the ousted Baath party until after the March 7th parliamentary poll.

Iraq’s election commission has banned 500 candidates and 15 parties on the recommendation of the de-Baathification panel. The move was endorsed by prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. High-profile secular Sunnis who have been banned include defence minister Abdel Qadr Jassem al-Obaidi, deputy prime minister Rafi al-Issawi and deputy Saleh al-Mutlaq.

US vice president Joe Biden has asked for the move to be delayed. Norwegian analyst Reidar Visser described the development as a “complete system failure” and said there was no legal basis for such a ban.

Adnan Pachachi, Iraq’s senior statesman, observed that the “ill-conceived” ban was based on Iran’s practice of excluding opposition figures from public office and was “exacerbating tensions at an inappropriate moment”.

Having faced sharp domestic and international criticism over its conduct of its own presidential election, Tehran now stands accused of urging its Iraqi Shia and Kurd allies to avoid controversy by disqualifying Sunni and secular politicians and parties ahead of the vote.

Mustafa al-Hiti, a Sunni deputy, laid the blame on Ahmad Chalabi, who helped to convince the Bush administration to effect regime change in Iraq. Mr Chalabi, the prime mover of the de-Baathification effort, is standing for election on the list of the Shia Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, established by Tehran in 1982.

The Islamic council heads a bloc competing against Mr Maliki’s Dawa party. Mr Obaidi, a competent minister since 2006, was on Mr Maliki’s slate.

Former prime minister Ayad Allawi, who heads the main secular opposition bloc, has condemned the action as unjustified.

The banning of Mr Mutlaq and Mr Issawi has seriously weakened the secular opposition slate.

Mr Allawi and his remaining ally, Sunni vice-president Tareq al- Hashemi, intend to contest the election, although their challenge to the dominant Shia factions and their Kurdish allies has been seriously weakened.

Meanwhile, the ruling council of the Shia majority province of Najaf has ordered “Baathists”, that is Sunnis, to flee within 24 hours or face an “iron fist” . This follows a bombing that killed 15 people and wounded 25 in the provincial capital.