News / Middle East

    Iraq Government says Decision to Reinstate Ba'ath Candidates 'Illegal'

    The Iraqi government says the decision to allow candidates with ties to the Ba'ath Party to run in March elections is "illegal." Meanwhile, the head of Iraq's electoral commission says he is awaiting a decision on the matter from the country's top court. 

    Iraqi government TV reports a special session of parliament will be held Sunday to discuss an appeals court decision to reinstate hundreds of candidates barred from running in March parliamentary elections.  A parliamentary committee accuses them of ties to the Ba'ath Party of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.

    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's spokesman, Ali Debbagh, called the move by Iraq's High Electoral Commission to reinstate the candidates "illegal."  An appeals court ordered the commission to reinstate the candidates Wednesday, and to suspend background checks on them until after March elections.

    Iraq High Electoral Commission chief Faraj al-Haidari says he is waiting for a decision from the country's highest court to resolve the issue.

    Commission official Amal Bayrkdar said the start of campaigning for the March 7 election, originally set for Sunday, would be postponed by a week.  Judge Qassem al-Abboudi of the commission says it is unclear what the panel is to do.

    He says the appeals court has not instructed the electoral commission about what to do over reinstating candidates and is still awaiting clarification

    Sunni and Shi'ite political leaders continue to accuse each other of trying to manipulate the electoral process to skew the outcome of the parliamentary election.  

    Parliament Speaker Iyad al-Samaraie told an audience Iraq is facing serious challenges in the lead-up to March elections, and Iraqis must decide for themselves if they want to bury sectarianism, once and for all:

    He says a difficult period is facing Iraq, and the matter is in the hands of its people.  He says they must continue to try to correct past mistakes and deviations in order to get back on the right track and build a healthy future without sectarianism, where we are all Iraqis - not Sunnis or Shi'ites.

    Parliament's de-ba'athification committee, whose legality has been challenged by Sunni politicians, began the latest dispute by disqualifying hundreds of candidates last month.  Several Shi'ite members of parliament accuse the United States of being behind the attempt to reinstate candidates banned by the committee.  

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