Campaigning for the March 7 election in Iraq formally began today, with several hundred candidates remaining banned from participation, and sectarian resentment over the bans looking to linger throughout the election season.
After political wrangling and public protests, a judicial panel ruled that only 28 of the over 500 banned candidates would be allowed to run in the election. A handful of others were banned despite appeal, and the vast, vast majority had their appeals rejected because they were improperly filled out. Two seated MPs, both Sunnis, are among the bans, and though officials deny political motivation there is concern that the Justice and Accountability Commission singled out key opposition figures for banning.
Officially, some 6,000 candidates are contesting the election, with 325 parliamentary seats up for grabs. But many Iraqis, cynical after years of empty promises and corruption, are wondering if they’ll bother to vote at all.
But still, the campaigning has gotten off to a vigorous start, some say too vigorous and religious leaders and electoral commission figures warn the candidates against trying to directly bribe voters.
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