BAGHDAD — Six winning candidates in Iraq's parliamentary elections will be stripped of their votes and lose their seats — which would cost secular politician Ayad Allawi's bloc its narrow victory — if a federal court upholds a broad purge of candidates who are suspected of past involvement with the late dictator Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party, Iraqi officials said Monday.
The six winners are among 52 candidates who were disqualified just before the March 7 elections by Iraq's Accountability and Justice Commission, the controversial government body charged with "de-Baathification" efforts. Iraq's election commission allowed them to run, choosing to shelve the divisive matter rather than delay the elections. An Iraqi court will have at least two weeks to rule on the challenge.
If it succeeds, the effort to deny Allawi his bloc's slim victory could threaten hopes that the elections would pave the way to a new unity government, ease secular and ethnic tensions, and open the way for the Obama administration to speed the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as it sends more to Afghanistan.
The latest push to disqualify the candidates comes after Allawi's Iraqiya bloc won a narrow victory over incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition. At least three of the winning candidates are on Allawi's slate, so Iraqiya would lose its two-seat lead over Maliki's bloc if a federal court sided with the Accountability and Justice Commission and struck the votes rather than removed the candidates and allowed substitutes from the same bloc to take the seats.
"The votes will be completely canceled, and it's unfair to the voters," said Muhannad al-Kinani, the head of an independent Iraqi election-monitoring group. "It's partly the fault of the candidates and the political entity to which they belong — which should've known the requirements and refrained from nominating ineligible candidates — and partly the fault of the lawmakers who have failed to enact a law to regulate the formation of political parties."
De-Baathification is overseen by Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite Muslim and former U.S.-allied Iraqi exile leader who's now friendlier with Iran, and Ali Faisal al-Lami, who spent a year in a U.S.-run prison before he was released without charges in August 2009. Chalabi won 20,436 votes and a seat in Parliament; Lami got 989 votes and didn't win a seat, according to the official results.
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