On January 14, 2010, the Iraqi Election Commission approved the Accountability and Justice Commission’s ban on parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq and 500 other candidates from participating in the March 2010 national vote for alleged Baathist connections. That was an increase from earlier reports that mentioned only 400 candidates as being singled out. The Election Commission said that Accountability and Justice had asked for 11 more political lists and their candidates to be banned as well. All of the parties can appeal the decision although whether that process will work or is legal is up in the air. This latest turn of events points to the continuing instability in Iraq's electoral and legal systems.
The Accountability and Justice Act was passed by parliament in January 2008, and approved the following month. It was never enacted however, so the old members of the DeBaathification Commission simply slid over to the new Accountability and Justice Commission without parliamentary approval. Even with this lack of legal standing the Election Commission still decided to go with the Accountability and Justice Commission on Mutlaq and the others. Now the accused are supposed to be able to go to a seven-judge appeals court that was appointed just a few days ago. Some lawmakers have accused three of the judges of being Baathists as well, adding to the drama of Iraqi politics.
If the appeals court approves the Accountability and Justice ban it would not only be a setback for the 2010 vote, but a dangerous precedent for Iraq’s developing political system. Sunnis have been struggling to rejoin Iraq’s political process since 2005 when they boycotted elections. In 2009 Sunni areas had the highest increase in voter turnout during the provincial balloting. Banning Mutlaq could lesson their enthusiasm to participate by making them feel like their votes and voice don’t matter since their leaders can be removed at any time. Just as important, it would show that any official who was involved with the former regime in any capacity could be excluded at the whim of the Accountability and Justice Commission that has a questionable legal standing and a clear sectarian history, showing that Iraq is not really a country ruled by law. As a Shiite member of the Accountability and Justice committee in parliament told McClatchy Newspapers, “The political climate cannot tolerate what this shady commission is doing. It’s not because it’s going after candidates with Baathist connections that I criticize it, but because it has a filthy sectarian agenda and is manipulating the rules and regulations to attain its goals;" those being eliminating its political opponents, playing on sectarian tensions, and staying in power.
Alsumaria, "500 Iraq candidates banned from elections," 1/15/10
Aswat al-Iraq “IHEC excludes 500 candidates from election,” 1/14/10
BBC, "Iraqi election commission bans 500 candidates," 1/15/10
Mahdi, Osama, “Discrimination decisions of the judges are threatened with de-Baathification deracination,” Elaph, 1/12/10
Shadid, Anthony, "Iraqi Commission Bars Nearly 500 Candidates," New York Times, 1/15/10
Visser, Reidar, “More De-Baathification Antics in the Iraqi Parliament,” 1/10/10
- “System Failure: The Ban on Mutlak,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 1/14/10