Sectarian fears as Iraq bars Sunnis

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The Independent Online

Iraq's electoral commission has barred 500 candidates from running in March's parliamentary election, including a prominent Sunni lawmaker, in a decision that is sure to deepen Iraq's sectarian divides.

Hamdia al-Hussaini, a commissioner on the Independent High Electoral Commission, said the commission made the decision after receiving the list from a parliament committee that vets candidates for ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party.

The decision to bar the candidates – most of whom are believed to be Sunni – potentially threatens the country's fragile security because it risks leaving Sunni voters feeling targeted and disenfranchised. The Sunni boycott in a January 2005 election is considered one of the key factors that deepened the insurgency. The candidates have three days to appeal, al-Hussaini said. Among those barred is prominent Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlaq.