BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s government on Thursday called a decision to allow politicians with alleged ties to Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party to run in a March election “illegal.”
An appeals panel ruled on Wednesday that nearly 500 people, who had been barred from running for office because of supposed links to the Baath party, could stand in a March 7 election, but would still have to answer the allegations after the poll.
“Postponing implementing the law of the Justice and Accountability Commission till after the election is illegal and not constitutional,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement on his website.
Shi’ite groups, which along with Iraq’s minority Kurds bore the brunt of Baath party repression during the rule of Sunni dictator Saddam, also condemned the ruling.
The candidate ban was seen by many Sunnis as a conspiracy by Shi’ite-led factions to keep them from a fair share of power even though the list has more Shi’ite names and a disproportionate number from smaller, cross-sectarian alliances.
The parliamentary election is seen as a test of Iraqi democracy as it emerges from years of conflict after the 2003 U.S. invasion, and of whether it can bridge the divides between the once dominant Sunnis and the Shi’ite majority.
The vote was postponed from January due to discord between political factions.