Iraq Election Update

Last month about 500 allegedly Baathist Sunnis were banned from running in Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Sunnis were pissed. But then, a week ago, an appeals court overturned the ban. The elections were saved! But no: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, after some pro forma attacks on American interference, at first tried to convene an emergency session of parliament to overrule the court but then switched gears:

Calls for the emergency session were later dropped after a highly unusual meeting convened by Maliki with other key leaders and the head of the Higher Judicial Council, Medhat al-Mahmoud. Following the meeting, the appellate panel was directed to immediately recommence its review of all case files with decisions having to be announced prior to the start of the official electoral campaign period on February 12. It appears, based on the public statements of al-Maliki and others, that the impending decisions of the panel on the de-Ba’athification status of these individuals will bring this entire affair to a close.

Needless to say, this is a …. noteworthy …. amount of executive interference with the judiciary. Marc Lynch is cautiously pessimistic:

I still expect this to work out in one way or the other and for the elections to go ahead, and for some Sunni politicians to take advantage of any attempt by others to boycott. I don’t expect it to lead directly to a return of the insurgency. But at the same time, by this point significant damage has probably already been done….Sunni-Shia resentments have been rekindled, with such polarization evidently being seen as a winning electoral strategy in certain quarters. Sunni participation may well be depressed, though a full-out boycott is unlikely. The damage is likely to be measured in increments, not in a single apocalyptic collapse.

Gregg Carlstrom is, I guess, slightly more pessimistic. But no one seems to think it spells doom. The election is on March 7.