In January 2010, two months before Iraq’s parliamentary elections, the Accountability and Justice Commission, which replaced the deBaathification Commission, announced that it was barring 511 candidates and 15 political blocs for alleged ties to the Baath Party. 72 of those candidates were from former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, and 67 were from Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance. The banning would become the major issue in the run-up to the 2010 vote. The Commission was not yet done however.
Just a few days after the March 7 balloting, it was reported that the Commission was not only considering banning more candidates, but that it was thinking of disqualifying the votes for those politicians as well. Later, as the election results began to be made public, it was revealed that the Commission was looking at 11 candidates that won seats. The National Movement was afraid this could be used to take away its lead, as four of the candidates were from their list. Allawi’s coalition finished first with 91 seats, while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law came in second with 89. The Accountability and Justice Commission head on the other hand, Ali al-Lami, said that it was the Election Commission’s fault for letting the candidates run in the first place, and that they were only able to do so due to pressure from the United Nations.
The impending crisis seemingly ended at the beginning of April. That’s when the Election Commission said that if the Accountability and Justice Commission banned any more candidates, their votes would go to their lists, and they would be able to name replacements. That ended the threat to Allawi’s first place finish.
The main reason why the candidate banning happened in the first place was because the main religious Shiite list, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council-Sadrist led Iraqi National Alliance, was feeling threatened by the growing popularity of Allawi and his secular and nationalist campaign. The Iraqi National Alliance had no real issues to run on themselves except being Shiites, so they decided to shape the entire election on their terms, the threat of Baathists returning to power. The two leaders of the Accountability and Justice Commission, Lami and Ahmad Chalabi, were both candidates for the National Alliance, and they made the decision to bar the 511 candidates. Prime Minister Maliki joined the fray by supporting the banning because he was afraid that the deBaathification drive was cutting into his own Shiite base, and to take a hit at his main rival Allawi. It should’ve been no surprise then, that the Accountability Commission would continue to challenge Allawi after the voting was finished. Thankfully, the Election Commission came to the rescue, and said that it would not disqualify any votes. If they had not, the Baathist controversy might have blown up all over again, and caused popular unrest. Voters could’ve not only felt that their voice didn’t matter if the Accountability Commission had barred the politicians they supported and thrown out their ballots, but it had the potential to shake Iraq’s move towards democracy by taking victory away from the winner, Allawi, thereby changing the entire outcome of the election. Forming a new government in Iraq is already likely to take months. Getting rid of at least one roadblock, the continuation of deBaathification, will help this process move along just a little bit.
Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraqi panel wants to bar 4 elected on winning list,” Associated Press, 3/29/10
Fadel, Leila, “In Iraq, candidates seek an edge with post-election maneuvers,” Washington Post, 3/30/10
Inside Iraq, “Iraq bans 14 political blocs and its 400 politicians,” McClatchy Newspapers, 1/7/10
Londono, Ernesto and Fadel, Leila, “Dispute over candidate disqualifications could mar Iraqi vote’s legitimacy,” Washington Post, 3/10/10
MEMRI Staff, “Iraq: The Formation of a New Government – Part I,” MEMRI Blog, 4/1/10
- “Summary of Main Events Surrounding Formation of a New Iraqi Government,” 4/2/10
Parker, Ned, “In Iraq, newly elected lawmaker target of arrest warrant,” Los Angeles Times, 4/1/10
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