Iraq’s electoral commission said Saturday it would carry out a court decision to remove 90 people who were members Saddam’s Hussein’s outlawed Baath party from the tickets of political parties and coalitions that participated in Dec. 15 elections.
The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq did not name any of the 90 people or say if any were likely to be elected when final results are released in early January.
Earlier this month, the de-Baathification commission, a body charged with removing senior members of Saddam’s party from government posts, recommended that nearly 185 people running as candidates be banned from taking part in the elections.
The de-Baathification commission later withdrew some of the names, citing mistaken identities. Others were withdrawn by their parties — leaving 90 people on the list.
The electoral commission, however, cited insufficient evidence against the 90 people and rejected the list. It said if the courts later determined that allegations of Baath membership were true, the officials would be barred from elected office even if they won in the poll.
Iraq’s federal court last week decided to remove the 90 people, an official said.
“The electoral commission will adhere to this decision,” said IECI General Director Adel al-Lami said. He said steps would be taken to “replace those who are covered by this decision with other candidates.”
An estimated 1.5 million Iraqis belonged to the Baath party — formally known as the Baath Arab Socialist Party — at the time of Saddam’s fall in April 2003. Most say they joined for practical reasons, arguing that membership was needed for career advancement, to secure places at prestigious colleges, or to get specialized medical care.
Protesters demand new election
On Friday, large demonstrations broke out across the country amid charges that the election was rigged in favor of the main religious Shiite coalition.
Several hundred thousand people demonstrated after noon prayers in southern Baghdad Friday, many carrying banners decrying last week’s elections. Many Iraqis outside the religious Shiite coalition allege that the elections were unfair to smaller Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups.
“We refuse the cheating and forgery in the elections,” one banner read.
During Friday prayers at Baghdad’s Umm al-Qura mosque, the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a major Sunni clerical group, Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaei told followers they were “living a conspiracy built on lies and forgery.”
“You have to be ready during these hard times and combat forgeries and lies for the sake of Islam,” he said.
Sunni Arab and secular Shiite factions demanded Thursday that an international body review election fraud complaints, and threatened to boycott the new legislature. The United Nations rejected the idea.
Their demand came two days after preliminary returns indicated that the current governing group, the religious Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, was getting bigger-than-expected majorities in Baghdad, which has large numbers of Shiites and Sunnis.
On Friday, more than 2,000 people demonstrated in Mosul, where some accused Iran of having a hand in election fraud. About 1,000 people demonstrated in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown.
Criticisms of last week’s elections are seen by some as jockeying for position by both Sunnis and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, before negotiations on forming a new coalition government begin. No group is expected to win a majority of the legislature’s 275 seats.
The formerly dominant Sunni minority fears being marginalized by the Shiite majority, which was oppressed during Saddam’s reign.