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Thursday, February 4, 2010
Iraq allows blacklisted election candidates to run
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Around 500 candidates barred from Iraq's March 7 general election for alleged links to executed dictator Saddam Hussein were told Wednesday they can stand after all, paving the way towards a smooth vote.
The blacklist sparked tensions between the country's Shiite majority and its Sunni Arab former elite, alarming the White House and the United Nations who both expressed concerns about the election's credibility in recent weeks.
However, a senior election official told AFP the barred candidates, who include people accused of membership of Saddam's outlawed Baath party, can take part in the vote, subject to a post-ballot appeals procedure.
“They have the right to run in the election,” said Hamdiyah al-Husseini from the war-torn country's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).
“The appeal court will look at their file after the election,” and if they find them to have links to Saddam's outlawed Baath party, “they will be eliminated,” she said.
The blacklist was compiled last month by an integrity and accountability committee responsible for ensuring that individuals from the former regime do not take part.
It is headed by Ali al-Allami, an ally of Ahmed Chalabi, a key U.S. ally when he spearheaded the case for war against Saddam, which was launched on the grounds that the dictator had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.
“I cannot do anything but accept the decision,” Allami told AFP following Husseini's comments.
Chalabi was appointed deputy prime minister after the invasion but intelligence he provided in support of those claims in the run-up to war later turned out to be flawed and he subsequently fell out of favor with Washington.
The UN secretary general's envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, said on Wednesday that the country must strike a balance between the need to exclude Saddam's former allies and ensuring a free and fair poll.
They must “balance the critical need for justice and accountability of those that have in the past been part of oppressive regimes and the need for peace, reconciliation and inclusion in the democratic process,” Melkert said.
As well as Baathists, the blacklist, which includes both Shiites and Sunnis, included members of Saddam's once deadly Fedayeen (Men of Sacrifice) militia and Mukhabarat intelligence division.
Baath party membership was essential for obtaining promotion in Iraq's omnipotent public sector during the dictator's rule.
A process of de-Baathification was adopted by Washington diplomat Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), following the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, which saw thousands of Saddam-era employees lose their jobs.