Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today denied reports that his government was using a blacklisting process which has eliminated 500+ candidates from running in March’s election to persecute the Sunni minority.
Maliki pointed out that the blacklist, whose contents has not been released to the public, might hypothetically contain Shi’ites as well as Sunnis, as the former Ba’ath party included a large number of Shi’ite members.
Moreover, Maliki insisted that “only criminals” were effected by the ban, which has effectively destroyed the third largest political alliance in Iraq. Officials insisted that those on the list were allowed to challenge the ban, but it was unclear how they could prove that they weren’t “secret” members of a banned political party.
But despite repeated claims that Shi’ites could be banned too, the list has reportedly contained almost exclusively Sunnis and not a single Shi’ite politician has been named as being on the list.
Concerns have risen that the move, which barred popular opposition MP Saleh al-Mutlaq, could lead to a full boycott of the election by the Sunni Arab minority, damaging Iraq’s credibility and fueling sectarian tensions.