Sunday, June 29, 2008

DeBaathification and Elections Update

The Voices of Iraq reported on June 28, 2008 that Iraq’s parliament had passed an amendment to the new de-Baathification law, the Accountability and Justice act. The amendment would stop former security officers from being fired and allow those that had quit before the U.S. invasion, the opportunity to get new jobs in the government.
What would happen to Baathists in the security forces and related ministries was a major question with the original version of the Accountability and Justice law. The act said that Baathists were banned from the Interior, Defense, and Justice ministries. That could mean up to 7,000 employees at the Interior Ministry as well as many in the Army losing their jobs. The fact that former soldiers might now be eligible for jobs could mean that Sons of Iraq fighters, many of which are ex-army, could also get work with the government. This would be a positive step for the de-Baathification process because getting Sunnis’ back into the government is one way to rebuild trust and overcome divisions in the country. Of course, the original law hasn’t even been implemented yet.

England’s Guardian reported that Iraq might change its voting system. During the last elections in 2005 Iraq used a closed list system where voters only got to pick from parties, not politicians. When the new elections happen the government may allow people to choose candidates. An open list would make for a more democratic system in Iraq. It would allow people to vote on individuals instead of groups, and make politicians answerable to the public. The problem is the ruling parties are opposed to such elections, and are doing everything they can to delay them. Because they are the most organized and powerful group in parliament and control the majority of provincial governments they are trying to shape the election laws so that they can hold onto power.

The Guardian also said that elections in the disputed city of Kirkuk might be delayed. Currently Kurds, Arabs and Turkoman all lay claim to the city, and they can’t agree on how to register voters. The Kurds control the city and provincial government, and are expected to hold up the elections until they get a system that will benefit them. In fact, in May it was reported that the Kurds were attempting to hold up the entire election process by delaying the passage of the election law until Kirkuk was resolved. The Kurds are also opposed to the elections because they fear that they will lose power in several northern provinces where Arabs are the majority.

According to the head of the electoral commission, the country’s elections, which were suppose to be held in October 2008, are expected to be delayed until December already. Parliament has missed three deadlines on passing a new election law so far.

SOURCE

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraqi politicians squabble over election law,” Associated Press, 5/26/08

Garcia-Navarro, Lourdes, “Iraqis Fear Delays of Critical Provincial Elections,” Morning Edition, NPR, 6/27/08

Government Accountability Office, “Security, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed,” June 2008

Gulf News, “Parliament walkout freezes bill on Iraqi local elections,” 2/8/08

International Center for Transitional Justice, “Briefing Paper: Iraq’s New ‘Accountability and Justice’ Law,” 1/22/08

Jam, Kawa, “Delay of provincial council elections sought,” Kurdish Globe, 5/23/08

Steele, Jonathan, “Iraqi MPs stall deals on Bush benchmarks,” Guardian, 6/28/08

Voices of Iraq, “Debaathification law not applicable to security agencies – MP,” 6/28/08

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