First Published: 2010-02-25

Iraq Sunni Arab bloc ends poll boycott

National Dialogue Front urges its followers to turn out in numbers for Iraq's March poll.


Middle East Online

Mutlak: 'we decide to help our brothers in Iraqiya'

BAGHDAD - Iraq's leading Sunni Arab political bloc announced on Thursday that it will take part in next month's general election and urged its followers to turn out in numbers.

The about-face by the National Dialogue Front (NDF) comes just five days after it said it was withdrawing from the vote, only the second parliamentary poll since the US-led invasion in 2003.

"We call on the Iraqi people to vote massively to avoid fraud, despite our reservations concerning the electoral process," Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni MP who has been barred from standing for re-election on the grounds of alleged links to the Baath party of now executed leader Saddam Hussein, said.

Mutlak, who was among 456 candidates who were barred, highlighted "the exclusion of candidates, which is hurting the legitimacy of the election."

On Saturday, the NDF had said that its 175 candidates would no longer stand in protest at what it said was Iranian interference in the poll.

However, electoral authorities said the boycott was largely symbolic and had no official status because the deadline for parties to withdraw had passed and ballot papers had already been printed.

Mutlak was the main Sunni figure in Shiite former premier Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqiya list. His disqualification is a setback for Allawi's bid to unseat Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"We are concerned that the situation will deteriorate in the event that Iraqiya does not win, and we are sure that Iraqiya will not win if we do not participate," Mutlak said.

"That is why we decide to help our brothers in Iraqiya to be in first position in the elections and therefore to bring change to Iraq."


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