- Title: IRAQ: Iraqis react to panel decision allows banned candidates in poll
- Date: 4th February 2010
- Summary: AL-MUTLAQ SPEAKING TO COLLEAGUE/ CHANTING
- Embargoed: 19th February 2010 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6BEUSSAN4ZY68FF1U6IIWSBK9
- Story Text: Iraqis on Wednesday (February 3) gave mixed opinions on the decision of an Iraqi appeals panel to allow 500 candidates banned for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party to stand in the March election.
Some supported the decision, saying that the Baathists have the right to participate in the election just like other parties in Iraq.
"As for the Baathists, they have the right to participate in the elections, as they are just like other parties in the Iraqi society but the first thing is that their hands should not be stained with blood. The second thing is that the opinion of the Iraqi people is a decisive one in the elections. That means everyone has the right to elect them or not. It is the decision that should be made by people, neither the government decision, nor the Justice and Accountability Commission. The final word is for the people," said Mazen Ali, an Iraqi citizen.
Ahmed Ali, another resident of Baghdad, said he was against their participation in the election.
"My opinion as an Iraqi citizen and it is the opinion of most Iraqi people, we reject the return of Baathists because the Iraqi people have suffered enough from the Baathists and their crimes. Actually their return to the elections is a big mistake," he added.
An Iraqi appeals panel has decided to allow nearly 500 candidates banned for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party to stand in the March election, electoral authorities said on Wednesday.
The ban by a controversial committee had been seen by once-dominant Sunnis as an attempt by Shi'ite-led authorities to marginalise them even though the list contained more Shi'ite politicians, threatening to reopen old sectarian wounds.
The March parliamentary vote is seen as a critical juncture for Iraq as it tries to leave behind years of war since the 2003 U.S. invasion and revamp its economy by signing a raft of oil deals set to turn it into a top three oil producer.
Iraqi lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq who was among the 500 candidates banned from participating in the election considered the decision as a tremendous victory to Iraqis.
"What happened today is considered as a victory for justice in Iraq, a tremendous victory for the Iraqi judiciary, a tremendous victory for the Iraqis' will and for the will of the international society which look forward to democracy and peace. Many have bet that the decision was taken and it will not be reviewed again but we were assured that this decision will not be passed and in any condition," he said.
Al-Mutlaq added that the international society has discovered that with the presence of the Justice and Accountability Commission, there will be no democracy and stability in Iraq.
"The international society was deceived by the political process in Iraq and for the first time the international society acknowledged that there is a big gap in the political process and there will be no stability, national reconciliation, justice and democracy in the area with the presence of the Justice and Accountability Commission," he said.
The Justice and Accountability Commission, an independent body that aims in part to ensure the Baath party does not return to public life, said in January that a number of parties should be prevented from standing in the March 7 election.
Its original list of 511 candidates, since whittled down somewhat, included prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, who openly courted the votes of people feeling nostalgic about the stability and greater public safety of the Saddam years.
The Baath party under Sunni dictator Saddam killed thousands of Shi'ites and Kurds in crackdowns against uprisings and Iraq's "de-Baathification" rules were originally drawn up by U.S. administrators after Saddam was driven from power in 2003.
The banned candidates had the right to contest the decision to the appeals board, which was hastily set up and consisted of seven unidentified judges.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis died in the sectarian warfare between Shi'ites and Sunnis that hit its peak in 2006-07, but overall violence has subsided over the last two years.
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