The Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) has earlier queried the constitutional court about the relationship between excluded party leaders and the entities they represent. Last December it asked whether it would be constitutional to ban an entity if its leader were excluded; the court replied it did not want to issue an opinion on this and said the matter rested with the IHEC. It was subsequently rumoured that the accountability and justice board wanted to exclude between 10 and 15 entities, and it was thought that there might be an attempt at linking the banning of entity heads and their entire parties.
Today, the IHEC has acted in a bolder fashion. Referring to section 5 of CPA order 97 from 2004, they have cancelled the approval of 9 entities previously slated to take part in the elections. CPA order 97 is an unmistakable Paul Bremer creation. It pompously begins, “Pursuant to my authority as Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority…” The relevant section simply runs as follows, “All further matters regarding the regulation and certification of political entities lie with the Commission exclusively”. Very general and wide-ranging powers indeed. The document was signed on 7 June 2004; the “commission” referred to is what was then the “Independent Electoral Commission”, which later became the “higher commission”.
The entities affected include two sub-entities within Iraqiyya (most famously the Hiwar front of Salih al-Mutlak); two parties within Unity of Iraq; the party of Nehru Abd al-Karim; one party within State of Law, and the rest smaller lists and independents. The commission does not spell out what the annulment of the approval of these entities will mean in practice. It says the candidates in the elections cannot use the names and logos of these parties. That may possibly mean that the practical implications are limited – the case of Iraqiyya is in any case more convoluted because the banned Hiwar technically merged with Wifaq to form a new movement or haraka last autumn, distinct from the coalition, and Ayad Allawi is the head of it.
What this whole issue shows is that once more the IHEC is acting in concert with the accountability and justice board. The reversion to a carte-blanche article in a law authored by Paul Bremer – no specific coherent legal justification for the exclusion is offered, just a brutal attempt at asserting boundless power – serves to highlight the murkiness of the waters that we are headed for with this election.
Postscript: Finally, one more detail. By highlighting the names of the party heads in the list of excluded entities, one gets the impression that the IHEC wants to focus on the de-Baathification status of the leader as basis for exclusion. But apparently, four of these leaders are not on the blacklist of the 511 excluded candidates, even though some expected them to be there! The only Arshad on the list is called Arshad Husayn Muhammad Yunis, and yet the party of Arshad Ahmad Muhammad Mustafa (Zibari, a Kurd) has been banned. Similarly, Jamal Nasir al-Karbuli and Saad Asim Abbud al-Janabi have had their lists banned, and yet the list of 511 contains only 4 Jamal and 4 Saad, none of whom have parental names that fits. That inevitably raises the question of whether there is any relationship between the de-Baathification status of the leaders and the banned parties at all, and whether the IHEC thinks that it can outlaw whatever list it bloody well wants to exclude, even for no good reason, as long as it is done in the name of Paul Bremer’s sweeping edict from 2004.