Iraq Election Chaos as 52 Candidates are Disqualified

Iraqiya list has slender majority but two of its newly elected MPs have been ruled out over links to Ba'ath party of Saddam era

election results have been thrown into further doubt after 52
candidates were disqualified, threatening the slight lead of challenger
Ayad Allawi and risking heightened sectarian tensions.

candidates were ruled out on grounds of links to the outlawed Ba'ath
party by a judicial review panel of the independent electoral
commission. Both were elected for Allawi's Iraqiya list, which won two
seats more than the State of Law bloc led by Nouri al-Maliki, the
incumbent prime minister, in the 7 March polls. Spokesmen for Iraqiya
said they would be replaced by members of the same list.

said they expected a more important decision when the panel rules
tomorrow on up to nine more winning candidates. Maliki's list stands to
benefit most from any significant changes.

"The ruling of the
review panel is politically motivated and could be detrimental to the
whole democratic process in Iraq," warned al-Iraqiya's Mustafa al-Hiti.

The commission announced that a partial vote recount would begin next week.

won 91 seats compared with 89 won by al-Maliki's bloc. Allawi's allies
have said they do not believe the final outcome will be dramatically
different but fear a resurgence of sectarian anger.

The panel,
chaired by Ahmed Chalabi, a Shia former deputy prime minister who was
close to the US before the 2003 invasion, was set up to examine ties to
Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, dominated by Iraq's Sunni minority.

have already been weeks of negotiations to build a coalition between
the different political groupings in the 325-seat council of
representatives, but without apparent success.

The delay in
forming a government has damaged hopes for improved stability,
including badly needed investment in the Iraqi oil sector by foreign

The US, concerned that the inconclusive result and power
vacuum will hold up the withdrawal of its remaining combat forces, is
reportedly seeking to persuade Allawi and Maliki to form a coalition
government and split the premiership between them for two years each.

US is expected to withdraw its remaining troops by the end of 2011
under the terms of a status of forces agreement signed by George Bush
before he left the presidency. Deadly bomb attacks last week, in the worst violence since the election have underlined the depth of the crisis.

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