Iraqi politicians are barring 500 candidates
from participating in the upcoming March elections, citing de-Baathification laws that ban anyone affiliated with Saddam Hussein's
Baath Party from returning to the government. The long list
includes many prominent Iraqi politicians, most notably Saleh
al-Mutlaq, who leads the popular Sunni party, Front for National
Dialogue. Gregg Carlstrom reports
the list also includes the current Defense Minister and three judges
who would otherwise hear appeals form banned politicians. The move has
Iraq analysts extremely worried, as de-Baathification largely targets
minority Sunnis, who already feel excluded from government and whose
boycott of the 2005 elections was followed by years of bloody sectarian
conflict. How bad is this?
- Major Step Backwards For Iraqi Democracy The Guardian's Ranj Alaaldin worries
that this looks like "a sinister anti-Sunni campaign in anticipation of
the coming elections." He writes, "It is no surprise then that Sunni
officials consider this another plot
by the Shia-dominated government to outmanoeuvre and marginalise the
Sunnis, who this time round are expected to come out and vote en masse
and, therefore, threaten the dominance of Iraq's other major groups."
Even if the ban is ended, "the saga has already hurt the process of
imperative for long-term stability and US withdrawal plans, and as a
result the damage may have already been done."
- Democratic 'Failure' Risks Sectarian Conflict Iraq analyst Reidar Vissar sees shades of 2005, a terrible year in Iraq's history. "It is hard to describe this development as anything than other than
complete system failure in the new democracy in Iraq. Almost
inevitably, the atmosphere of the elections will now turn into a repeat
of December 2005, with escalating rhetoric that can easily turn
sectarian," Vissar writes. "Mutlak has played a constructive role
in Iraqi politics since 2005; the sudden allegation of dangerous
Baathist revival plans simply smacks of panic on the part of his
political opponents and involvement by forces outside Iraq." Those forces, says Vissar, are chiefly Iranian.
- Democracy Is A Learning Process IraqPundit says
the move, though "stupid" and likely to incite anger and violence, is
just part of the learning curve. "Most I talked with said it was a
supremely stupid deicsion, but it will not ultimately derail the
elections," he writes. "In the end while the move shows amazing
stupidity on the government's
part, it also shows what it's like to be a country learning about
democracy. People get that democracy is about protecting minorities,
but they have to learn that it is also about choice. Unfortunately it
appears to be taking longer than many of us had hoped."
- Reveals, Exacerbates Ethnic Divisions Al-Jazeera's Hoda Hamid calls this
"the new democratic Iraq where ethnicity and religious sects prevail
over political programs and manifestos." Of the Baath ban, "surprise,
surprise, most of those barred are Sunnis." Hamid writes, "In 2004 and
2005, the Sunnis were blamed for boycotting the elections and not
wanting to participate in the new Iraq. Now they want to participate
but might very well be not allowed to do so in the name of
debaathification, a witch hunt."
- De-Baathification: Decade's #3 Blunder The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran writes
in Newsweek that the original U.S. "De-Baathification" program of
banning Baath officials was the #3 blunder of the decade. "Written with
input from Ahmad Chalabi and other exiles who promised
that U.S. troops would be greeted with flowers, Coalition Provisional
Authority Order No. 1 didn't just ban high-level Baathists from top
government jobs. It prevented tens of thousands of Iraqis who were
low-level party members--people who had joined to avoid police
harassment or secure college admission for their children--from
returning to their jobs in factories, in schools, in hospitals." Along
with dissolving the Iraqi army, it "did more than anything else to
transform the U.S. effort to rebuild the country into a bloody, chaotic
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