Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Ghost of Paul Bremer Strikes Again: Nine Entities Banned with Reference to CPA Order 97

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 25 January 2010 22:15

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.

4 Responses to “The Ghost of Paul Bremer Strikes Again: Nine Entities Banned with Reference to CPA Order 97”

  1. Reidar,
    Thank you for your attention, I hope you don’t mind my dissenting comments.
    The liberal interpretation of Bremer’s “law” deepens my conviction that an election commission created under local legislation (such as Afrganistan’s Election Commission) would not stand a chance in Iraq. Interpretation of the law must be done under an international mandate otherwise we will get repetition of IHEC’s practices.

  2. azzam said

    the politicians of Iraq appear to be not interested in building a state. One presume that they should know that what they allow themselves to use, in terms of constitutional powers, can be used against them at some point in the future….if there is an Iraq state that is. If their aim is to divide the country, then they are on the right track.

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, but I also think we need to stay within the realm of what is possible and realistic. To be honest, it is now rather late in the day even for an Afghanistan-style internationalised complaints commission. I think what is needed is instead a reaction by the international community that is more symbolic but at the same time capable of offering a sense of hope to all those Iraqis that are today disillusioned and intimidated by the accountability and justice board and its seemingly limitless ability to dictate the Iraqi political process according to its every whim. My main point is that this whole perversion of the legal process and the basic idea of democracy must not go unchallenged. Some more ideas about this at
    More specifics to follow soon.

  4. Reidar,
    My point exactly (see your entry of Jan. 20 my comment #9). The way to encourage the Iraqi voter in order to induce him/her to vote and to observe the election is for the US to declare all options will be considered if the elections did not meet international standards. The worst the US and the international community can do is to keep quiet.

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