Friday, February 12, 2010

Election campaign in Iraq starts, row over candidates not solved

Campaigning for the election in Iraq is getting under way amid a continuing row over the ban on scores of candidates. As posters appeared across Iraq for Friday's start, the fate of more than 170 candidates is still undecided.A panel op Iraqi judges is continuing its work hearing appeals from the candidates, many banned for ties to the Baath party through which Saddam Hussein governed.
The panel has reportedly upheld the decision to bar two prominent Sunni members of parliament from contesting in general elections scheduled for March 7.The endorsement of the ban against Saleh al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani is likely to raise tensions between the Shia-led government and Sunni Iraqis, who claim they are being marginalised.
The original blacklist contained around 500 names but that number has been whittled down to just over 170.
These candidates have appealed to a panel of judges to overturn the banning order from the election vetting committee.Many other banned candidates have either decided not to appeal or have been replaced by others.
Ali al-Lami, head of the political vetting committee, told Associated Press on Thursday the judicial panel had allowed 13 appeals, rejected at least 99 and was continuing its work.
Posters in Baghdad. On top: Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, below view of a street. The pictures are from the provincial elections, February 2009. 

Although the controversial list of banned candidates straddles the sectarian divide, Sunni groups have felt disproportionately targeted. The row has been a major concern for the US, which is preparing to withdraw large numbers of forces by the middle of this year.The US fears that if the election lacks credibility among Sunni voters, Iraq could slide back into sectarian violence.
Although a minority in the country as a whole, the Sunnis were over-represetented in Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. Shia parties insist the Ba'athists must be purged and have voiced fears about what they see as American interference in the electoral process.

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