The Iraqi elections

The Iraqi elections are feeling the legacy of the last US administration’s botched De-Baaathification process. Hundreds of candidates have been barred from standing in the election. Many Sunni politicians boycotted the last elections; could a similar boycott lead to another slide into sectarianism?

The accountability commission is the successor to the destructive de-Baathification commission that sought to keep anyone with ties to Mr. Hussein out of government. Its chief, Ali Faisal al-Lami, is hardly an impartial judge. He is a candidate on the slate led by the Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi, a relentlessly ambitious force in Iraqi politics who lured the Bush administration into the 2003 invasion and wants to be prime minister.

Both the accountability and the election commissions are part of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government, and he issued a statement supporting their decisions. But American officials say Mr. Chalabi is the main manipulator. Mr. Chalabi’s absurd charge that the United States wants to return the Baath Party to power is typical of his divisive and destructive brand of politics.

President Talabani is also concerned:

President Jalal Talabani said the three-member presidential council he leads has sent a letter to the head of the Higher Judicial Council requesting a ruling after the vetting committee banned 511 candidates – many of them minority Sunnis – in a move that threatens to cast a shadow over the vote.

“I, myself, am not satisfied with the banning decision,” said Talabani, a Kurd who has strongly backed reconciliation among Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunnis and Kurds.

He told reporters he was seeking a ruling on “whether this committee that issued the decision is legitimate or not” because it did not have full parliamentary backing.

Vice President Biden is expected to visit Baghdad soon, underscoring Washington’s concern about the flare-up between Shiites, who claimed wide control of Iraq after Hussein’s fall, and the minority Sunnis, who were favored under Hussein and seek a greater say in the country’s decisions.

The friction was on display in Iraq’s Shiite-dominated south yesterday, where protesters beat campaign posters with shoes – an insult in the Arab world – and set them alight while chanting slogans including “No to Baathists.