'More Shi'ite than Sunnis' banned from Iraq elections over Baath ties
More Shi'ite candidates than Sunnis have been barred from Iraq's election because of links to Saddam Hussein's Baath party, politicians said.
More Shi'ite candidates than Sunnis have been barred from Iraq's election because of links to Saddam Hussein's Baath party, politicians said on Wednesday, potentially defusing a row that threatened to reopen sectarian wounds.
A decision by a panel to ban 511 candidates under a law outlawing the Baath party outraged many Sunnis, who dominated Iraq for more than two decades under Saddam, and raised fears the legitimacy of the March 7 election could be undermined.
Two-thirds of the list handed to electoral authorities by the Justice and Accountability Commission was composed of Shi'ites, according to a copy received by Reuters. The list appeared weighted more against secular alliances than Sunnis.
"This is just a general massacre of democracy," said Hashim al-Habubi, a member of Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani's Iraq Unity coalition, which includes prominent Sunni tribal leaders.
"The lists are indiscriminate, not sectarian or secular or Islamist. It's just a message for the Baathists that this is not the time to return. Tensions eased after everyone saw these lists."
The Baath party is illegal under Iraq's constitution. The panel that drew up the lists of banned candidates replaced a "de-Baathification" committee set up by U.S. administrators to purge Saddam loyalists after the 2003 invasion.
But two of the panel's most prominent members are also candidates in the election for the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition dominated by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), an openly religious Shi'ite party formed in Iran.
That gave rise to suspicions it was being used by factions in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government to marginalise Sunnis ahead of the vote.
"They used this as part of their electoral campaign. This is not a wise decision," said Maison al-Damiloji, a secular lawmaker from the Iraqiya alliance of former prime minister Iyad Allawi.
The list included 30 or so candidates from Maliki's State of Law coalition and around 20 from ISCI's Iraqi National Alliance.
Banned candidates can appeal to a special seven-judge panel.
Reuters Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2010, 08:10