Iraq overturns ban on election candidates 'linked to Saddam' - Middle East - World - The Independent

Iraq overturns ban on election candidates 'linked to Saddam'

Court's compromise eases sectarian tension by allowing hundreds of Sunnis to run for office

The Iraqi appeals court defused a political crisis yesterday by overturning the ban on 450 candidates standing in next month's election which was imposed because of their alleged links to the Baath party of Saddam Hussein.

Many Sunni Arab leaders were among those disqualified, causing a political uproar because the ban appeared aimed at the Sunni community and was likely to intensify Sunni-Shia hostility. In the last parliamentary election in 2005 the Sunnis boycotted the poll and supported the armed insurgency against the Shia-Kurdish government backed by the US.

In a compromise ruling by the court, candidates on the blacklist will take part in the poll on 7 March but will not be able to take office until they are cleared of links to the old regime. Blacklisted candidates defended themselves by saying that Baath party membership was obligatory for many jobs under Saddam Hussein.

Though many Sunni and secular Shia candidates will now be able to run in the election, a Shia-Kurdish government will inevitably be returned.

Provincial elections last year showed that Iraqis vote along communal or sectarian lines and the Shia make up three-fifths of Iraqis and the Kurds and Sunni one fifth each. At the same time, there is deep dissatisfaction within the three main communities with many of their current leaders because of corruption, lack of services, too few jobs and continuing insecurity. The US used all its influence to get the ban rescinded, including sending Vice-President Joe Biden to Baghdad, because it feared further alienating Sunnis.

The court ruling will reduce one cause of sectarian tension in Iraq, but a series of devastating suicide bombs since last August is also exacerbating Sunni-Shia differences. A bomb in a cart pulled by a motorcycle killed 20 and wounded 110 Shia pilgrims yesterday as they arrived in the holy city of Karbala for the Arbain, the religious festival commemorating 40 days from the anniversary of the death of the martyred Imam Hussein. On Monday, a female suicide bomber killed 41 pilgrims on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The most recent suicide bombing campaign is claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq movement, a cover for al-Qa'ida in Iraq. This has shown that it is able to penetrate tight security in Baghdad and elsewhere and vehicles packed with explosives and driven by suicide bombers have exploded close to well known government buildings and hotels. The effect of the blasts is to inflict many casualties and discredit the government's claim to have restored security.

The government has pointed an accusing finger at Syria saying that it is allowing insurgents to use Syrian territory as a base. A visit last year by Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Damascus, where he spent many years in exile, failed to improve relations. The Iraqi government has paraded captured insurgents who say they organised recent bombings and had previously been operating out of Syria.

Saudi Arabia has also made clear that it remains opposed to a Shia government ruling in Baghdad, the first Shia Arab government since the overthrow of the Fatimids by Saladin in Egypt 800 years ago. "Saudi Arabia is intervening in Iraq just as much as Iran," said one former Iraqi government official.

Neither the bombings nor the March election are likely to change the balance of power within Iraq. The Shia Arabs are well established in power though their political leadership is divided. Mr Maliki has the advantage of control of government patronage and money. The Kurdish parties show solidarity against outsiders but the reform party Goran did spectacularly well in the Kurdish parliamentary elections last summer.

The very fact that the Sunni political leadership could be so unexpectedly blacklisted shows their community's lack of strength. They appear to have avoided disenfranchisement thanks to the court ruling yesterday but they will still be a minority in parliament. The suicide bombings show, however, that Sunni insurgents can still destabilise the Iraqi state.

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Teaching Assistants urgently r...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:We are looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the UK ...

KS1 Teacher

£80 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Key stage 1 Teacher - Gloucest...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week