An Iraqi court on Monday upheld the appeals of nine winning parliamentary candidates who were barred from office because of their alleged ties to the former Baath Party. The decision permits them to take up their seats and removes the last obstacle to the final certification of March’s inconclusive election results.
The decision came after a recount in Baghdad did not uncover any fraud, and appears to spell the end of a series of challenges to the result by Shiite parties aiming to overturn the narrow lead of the Sunni-backed former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose faction won 91 seats in the parliament to 89 for that of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
Officials with Maliki’s State of Law coalition have indicated that they will raise no fresh objections, and Ali Lami, the head of the Accountability and Justice Commission charged with purging Baathists from office, said the commission respected the decision of the court.
Lami, who was a failed candidate for another major Shiite coalition, did say however that he would continue to investigate the candidates, with a view to uncovering fresh evidence that could be used to disqualify them at a later date. Though the identities of the nine have not been publicized in keeping with commission rules, officials with Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition say most of them were Sunnis from his electoral list.
In what Allawi has described as a witch hunt against his supporters, the commission prevented hundreds of mostly Sunni and secular candidates from competing in the election because of their ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
The commission is chaired by Ahmad Chalabi, a winning candidate for the Shiite-led Iraqi National Alliance, which came in third in the election. A spokesman for Chalabi, Entifadh Qanbar, said the commission had succeeded in its broader goal, which was “to prevent a Baathist surge in the Iraqi parliament.”
Though the challenges have failed to erode Allawi’s lead, Maliki and the Iraqi National Alliance have taken advantage of the delay in issuing final results to forge a tentative alliance that promises to deprive Allawi of the chance to form a government.
Iran had long pushed for such an alliance to be formed, while the U.S. has made it clear that it would prefer to see a coalition between Allawi and Maliki. Plans for a meeting between the two leaders have so far failed to materialize, but officials with both coalitions said the encounter could take place within the coming days now that the overall result of the election is unlikely to change.
Times staff writer Caesar Ahmed contributed to this report.