Iraq Election Victory Has Potential to Turn to Ashes

The slender margin generated by Iyad Allawi, the slightly more secularist candidate , over the incumbent Prime Minister Maliki, has all the indications of turning to ashes.  Although both candidates for the next PM role are Shiites, Allawi, a former member of the Saddam Govenment, has long been seen as a centrist and wholly secular candidate, whilst Maliki, himself centrist, is seen as less secular, more sympathetic to Shiites – several members of the current administration are rumoured to be close to Iran. 

In the last 48 hours the Accountability and Justice Commission has claimed that several of the elected MP’s retain loyalty to Saddam’s Baath Party.  The Baath party was secular and Sunni.  Many Sunni’s voted for Allawi because of his secular credentials which included his track record after being selected as the first Prime Minister of the post war Iraq Government in 2004/5.

This election was preceded by the barring of several hundred candidates deemed to have some retained loyalty to the Baath movement.  Shortly before the election, the Commission announced 52 further Baathists it had identified, but shelved the issue to enable the election to proceed.  This move by the Commission provides a possible avenue to nullify the success of the group, currently six. 

An interesting  aspect of the situation is that the Commission is run by two Shiites, both appointed by Maliki, once with rumoured close links to Iran.  Allawi currently has 91 seats and Maliki 89, but with the potential to nullify several results, this could rapidly shift the balance and the PR battle in Maliki’s favour.

The Commission itself does not have the power to make the changes.  It provides evidence to the Court of Appeal, under the current constitution, and the court can then make the judgement.  The court has just under a fortnight to take a view.

The Commission’s de-Baathification and other activities are led by Ahmed Chalabi, former Prime

Minister and Shiite Muslim with reputed close links to Iran, formerly a US resident and at one time close to Bush and oil sector players in Texas.  Chalabi also stood in the election and won a seat in parliament.  The other Commission Head  Ali Faisal al Lami was also a candidate but polled less than needed to win a seat. Lami is known as the man who spent a year in a US-run prison and was released without charges in August last year.  US commentators have said both men have close contacts with the head of Quds, an element of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, reputed to be the power behind Iran’s Government.

The Commission is quoted as saying “we are charged with making sure that no one who is a Baathist will ever rise to power”.

For Allawi, the process of forming a coalition could be stalled or slowed if the Court were to nullify the voting.  An alternative is that the Court could debar the individuals and allow the alternative candidates of the winning parties to take the seats. 

Unusually for Iran Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has warned against any foreign interference in the Iraqi elections. Mehmanparast said Monday that foreign interference could undermine efforts to restore democracy. “The Iraqi people went to the polls to institutionalize democracy so interference of others would harm this process.”

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