February 12, 2010 marked the official start of campaigning for the March parliamentary elections in Iraq. Two prominent Sunnis have been banned from the vote however, Saleh al-Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Front and Dhafi Al Ani, the head of the Accordance Front. Both are members of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s National Movement List. Of the 511 candidates that were originally barred from running, over 300 were replaced by their parties, and of the remainder, 160 had their appeals rejected, and only 28 were cleared. This could turn out to be just the latest chapter in this on-going drama, as the banned candidates may not accept these decisions.
The Baathist hysteria has also spread to the local level. On February 11, the Karbala provincial council said that it was forming its own Accountability and Justice Committee to investigate Baathists in the province. The head of the Economic Committee there said that 40 Baathists had already been identified in the local government, and that more would be found. Qadisiyah said that it too was creating an Accountability and Justice Committee. That same day there were protests in Baquba, Baladruz, and Muqdadiyah in Diyala against allowing the banned candidates from participating in the election. On February 10 and 9 there were demonstrations in Karbala and Qadisiyah organized by the provincial councils against Baathists, while a group called the Political Prisoners Foundation led a march in Dhi Qar on February 8. On February 7 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party also put together protests in Basra and Baghdad, Iraq’s two largest cities. Baghdad, Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, and Qadisiyah are all ruled by Maliki’s State of Law List, while Diyala has a large Shiite population. These acts at the provincial level are all signs that local politicians want to get in on the anti-Baathist campaign. This suits them well since the State of Law List has not done much since they came into power in the 2009 provincial elections. They have been burdened by large debts left over from the previous governments that have curtailed any hopes that they had of improving services or providing new jobs as they promised when they were running for office. Attacks and deaths have also hit a plateau, and the large mass casualty bombings have weakened Maliki's claim that his party has brought back law and order to the country. That has led them to jump on the deBaathification bandwagon since they have little else to run on.
Even as campaigning for the March elections has officially begun, the Baathist issue just wont go away. The banned candidates that lost their appeals may not be willing to give up, while the State of Law is pushing the hunt for former regime members down to the provincial level to make up for their lack of development and progress. With the vote just a month away, it appears that entire time will be spent focusing upon the crimes of Saddam, rather than the future of Iraq.
AK News, “Demonstration in Diyala against the decision of the Appealing Committee,” 2/11/10
- “Demonstration in Karbala condemns the Discriminatory Committee and Baath return,” 2/10/10
- “Iraqi government: Hussein Sa’eed included within de-Baathification procedures,” 2/12/10
- “Karbala council: 40 Baathists run important governmental posts,” 2/11/10
Aswat al-Iraq, “Demonstration in Diwaniya against Baathists’ return,” 2/9/10
- “Diwaniya council applies Accountability, Justice law,” 2/11/10
- “Karbala forms accountability committee to remove Baathists,” 2/11/10
- “Political prisoners foundation in Thi-Qar protests against Cassation Board’s decision,” 2/8/10
Kami, Aseel, “Bad state services dampen Iraqi appetite to vote,” Reuters, 2/12/10
Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraqi Court Given Time to Review Candidates,” New York Times, 2/8/10