A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Iraq Candidate Ban Lifted; Back from the Brink

Updated: Juan Cole has some cogent thoughts and a theory.

That ban on some 500 mostly Sunni candidates in Iraq, which was threatening to wreck the elections, has been overturned by an appeals court. Stories here and here. Reidar Visser's take here; Marc Lynch's here.

For the moment, it looks like the triumph of the rule of law over an attempt by the Shi‘ite-dominated government to exclude its opposition. But it may also be more of a pragmatic recognition that the US was quite displeased with the disqualification — apparently made clear during Vice President Joe Biden's visit. Whether the whole affair is a warning sign that once the US is out of the picture, sectarian conflict will resurface is debatable. But it seems clear that if Sunni participation is not thwarted, there is a chance the elections could produce a representative cross-section of parliamentarians. If the Sunnis are alienated from the system, the elections would be seen as a sham in many quarters of the Arab world.

So, for now, it's back from the brink. But the brinksmanship on display so close to the elections is not encouraging.

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