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Iraq Panel Disqualifies 52 Parliament Candidates, Alleging Ties to Former Regime

An Iraqi parliamentary committee responsible for purging former Ba'ath Party members from political life is banning 52 candidates who ran in the March 7 parliamentary election.

Ali Faisal al Lani, who belongs to the parliamentary committee responsible for purging former Ba'ath Party members, says the candidates could still appeal the rulings:

He says the appeals court informed the electoral commission of its decision to ban the 52 candidates and that parties to which they belong would not be able to keep the votes they received and that this could alter the outcome of the election. He noted that candidates would have a month to appeal the decision.

That decision could tip the balance of power between the two top winners in the election, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. Mr. Allawi won 91 seats in the new parliament to Mr. Maliki's 89 and theoretically should form the next government.

A member of Iraq's High Electoral Commission, Sa'ad al Rawi, told Al Arabiya TV he did not expect the decision to upset the outcome of the election too seriously, since "only one of the 52 candidates being banned belongs to Mr. Allawi's al Iraqiya alliance."

Al Rawi said the electoral commission would have to recalculate votes in all 52 districts where candidates were barred. He refused to indicate if a political party could hold on to a lost seat by replacing a disqualified candidate with another from its own fold.

Electoral commission head Faraj al Haidari also discussed a partial recount of votes cast in Baghdad during the March election. He said the commission needs further instructions to conduct the recount.

Damascus-based Iraq analyst Peter Harling of the Crisis Group says he thinks Iraq's political process is continuing to function:

"For the time being, I think what we are witnessing is more very tough negotiations - nomination of the prime minister, formation of the government - I think everyone is posturing, everyone is signaling, trying to work out various power-sharing formulas, but within the context of the political process, which is now widely accepted. One of the key stakes this year is whether this political system will be accepted a few months from now or rejected by significant constituencies within the country," Harling said.

He said the remnants of Iraq's insurgency movement are weak and divided compared to what they were just a few years ago, despite some recent attacks. Many analysts say they are worried a new round of sectarian strife could develop in the current vacuum following March's inconclusive parliamentary elections as politicians wrangle to form a new government.