After Iraq elections, panel says it will keep trying to disqualify new lawmakers

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BAGHDAD -- A commission that disqualified scores of prospective lawmakers in the run-up to the March 7 parliamentary elections announced Monday that it was unable to ban nine others after the vote.

The attempted disqualification of the candidates -- now newly elected members of parliament -- for alleged connections to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party was among the factors that prevented Iraqi officials from certifying the results of the election.

The challenging of the candidates, and a manual recount of votes cast in Baghdad, also delayed the official start of negotiations to form a new government. Those talks are widely expected to be long and contentious.

The director of the commission that oversaw the vetting of candidates for allegiance to the Baath Party said Monday that he respected a judicial panel's ruling in favor of the lawmakers, but he vowed to continue trying to disqualify them.

"This is not the end," Ali Faisal al-Lami said. "We have the right to chase those people even if they are in parliament."

The announcement appeared to mark the close of a saga that inflamed sectarian and political tension in the weeks before and after the vote and marred the legitimacy of Iraq's first national elections as a sovereign state.

Shiite politicians run the commission, which disproportionately targeted politicians from the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc. Iraqiya won 91 seats in the elections, two more than the coalition headed by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Maliki tacitly supported the disqualification process and was the driving force behind the recount in Baghdad. In the end, neither effort affected the seat distribution.

Maliki's State of Law coalition recently banded together with the other large Shiite bloc. If the alliance holds, the two probably will form the next government.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company