Monday, January 18, 2010

The Continuing Saga Of The Candidate Banning In Iraq

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.

SOURCES

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

6 comments:

Jason said...

This is a catastrophe, a coup being permitted to happen. Where is Obambi? Hillary? Is anybody even awake in DC? Send in the big guns: Threaten to cut off all assistance and refuse to recognize the new government unless this is corrected. Don't we have some serious leverage with the Kurds? DO SOMETHING! Bomb Iran.

Joel Wing said...

According to the papers Biden and Amb Hill have been trying to talk officials out of the ban but no one so far has listened, and some have complained about foreign interference. The UN has also been working on the issue as well as it attends meetings of the Election Commission.

Joel Wing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

Well, it is time for some "foreign interference" with explicit threats of serious action. You don't raise a child until he is 17 and 11 months and stand by and watch him commit suicide. You do what is necessary.

Matt said...

I don't expect any serious reversal in the Accountability and Justice Commission's decision, but frankly I don't think the elections will collapse, either. Allawi and Talabani and the rest will protest loudly and try to gain some moral advantage, but there will be no Sunni boycott. The drawbacks of a boycott would be truly drastic, and the practical effect of the blacklist is simply not big enough.

Of the 500 barred candidates, many had slim chance of victory anyway, and the rest will be filled by other names from their lists, anyway. The only major candidate to be affected is Saleh al-Mutlaq. There are even whispers that Saleh's coalition partner Allawi may actually be helped by his removal.

Don't get me wrong-- the blacklist is a cynical powergrab, authored by a commission headed by Iranian double-agent Chalabi and al-Lami the former thug. But it seems to have been rather well-calibrated. The elections will go on.

Joel Wing said...

I agree the election is going forward. Nothing is stopping that, and there will be no boycott.

I think the significance of the ban was 2 fold.

1st the banning showed that Iraqi law doesn't really matter. If you have a position of power and others are willing to follow then you can claim what you want as legal.

2nd the goal was to make the election about Baathists rather than issues because the National Alliance, which controls the top 2 positions in the Accountability and Justice commission has nothing to really run on.

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