First Published: 2012-04-14

 

Maliki’s ‘calculations’ plunge Iraq deeper into political tension

 

Arrest of Iraqi electoral commission officials draws accusations Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki aims to destroy democratic process.

 

Middle East Online

By W.G. Dunlop - BAGHDAD

Iraq sinks deeper into political turmoil

The arrest of Iraqi electoral commission officials has inflamed political tensions here, drawing accusations on Friday that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki aims to destroy the democratic process.

Faraj al-Haidari, the head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), was detained on Thursday along with another of the body's members, Karim al-Tamimi.

The Higher Judicial Council said on Friday that "the decision to detain Faraj al-Haidari and Karim al-Tamimi was based on (them paying) real estate registration employees to register pieces of land for them, from the budget of the electoral commission."

The presidency of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq said the arrests were an attempt by "those controlling the government in Baghdad" to centralise power and destroy the democratic process.

The arrests are "targeting the independence of the electoral commission, and the goal behind them is to kill the democratic process by enhancing control over an independent institution that is working to make the electoral process work in the country," a statement said.

"It seems that some of those controlling the government in Baghdad are working on proceeding with what they already started a long time ago, to force centralisation and return the political process to the first phase," it said.

Haidar al-Mullah, a leading MP in the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, also strongly condemned the arrests, accusing Maliki of dictatorship.

"When the head of the independent electoral commission is being targeted, it means it is a message from the one who is targeting him that he is above the law and above the political process," Mullah said.

"The one who is standing behind this is the head of the State of Law coalition (Maliki), because he wants to send a message that either the elections should be fraudulent, or he will use the authorities to get revenge on the commission."

"This arrest is an indication that the judiciary has become an obedient tool in the hands of Mr Nuri al-Maliki," he said.

"Today, we skipped the phase when dictatorship is born, and now we moved to the phase when dictatorship is growing in the hands of the prime minister," Mullah said.

The arrests have built on already-existing tension from several Iraqi political crises.

Kurdistan has stopped oil exports, saying Baghdad withheld $1.5 billion (1.2 billion euros) owed to foreign companies in the region. The two sides are also at odds over disputed territory in northern Iraq and dozens of energy contracts awarded by Kurdistan.

And the region gave refuge to fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni from Iraqiya who is wanted on charges of running a death squad, who has since departed the country.

The Iraqiya bloc has also been at odds with Maliki, accusing him of centralising power. It boycotted parliament and the cabinet from December into late January and early February, respectively.

Haidari, a 64-year-old Shiite Kurd, said by telephone from a police station in central Baghdad where he and Tamimi are being held that his arrest is a move by the State of Law coalition against IHEC.

"I think this is not direct against me ... this is against IHEC, against all the democratic process in Iraq," Haidari said.

He described the issue as being over "three or four" people working for IHEC who were paid 100,000 dinars ($83) for working overtime.

"This situation is very, very normal," Haidari said.

"This case, it's one of the cases which Hanan al-Fatlawi used in the questioning with parliament," Haidari said, referring to an MP from State of Law.

State of Law sought a no-confidence vote on Haidari for alleged corruption in July 2011, but failed because other parties opposed the move.

Haidari said a judge had earlier dismissed the case, but that "Hanan al-Fatlawi took it again to the court, and this time, the judge changed his mind."

He said he believes the case is related to the potential extension by two to three months of the terms for the current IHEC members, which are to expire on April 28.

"This is one of the reasons which pushed Hanan al-Fatlawi and the State of Law to open this case again to prevent us to continue our job," Haidari said.

A parliamentary source said State of Law opposes an extension for Haidari as the head of IHEC.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, which has worked closely with IHEC, said it is following the case and that "due process must apply in accordance with the principles enshrined in the Iraqi constitution."

 

French Foreign Minister steps down with criticism of US role in Syria

UAE names women state ministers in major government shake-up

Turkey, US split deepens over support for Syria Kurds

Unstable dam affecting Mosul recapture

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince in India: String of trade, security deals expected

Egypt hires UK firm to review Sharm security

Tunisia makes $500 million from assets of ousted president

Turkey dismisses pressure to open borders as 'hypocritical'

Efforts to form Libya unity government stumble over defence portfolio

Iran blames failure of Syria peace talks on participation of ‘terrorists’

Syria opposition hopes for end of sieges

Germany hopes Syria talks in Munich will agree to provide aid

Syrian Kurdish separatists open Moscow representation

Jordan rejects France extradition request for 1982 terror attack suspects

Libya parliament extends deadline for formation of new unity government

Herzog wants Israel to begin separation from Palestinian areas

Khomeini grandson loses appeal against exclusion from Iran elections

EU tells members to accelerate refugee relocation

Syria regime's Aleppo offensive kills more than 500

Ex-Israeli PM’s prison sentence extended

Turkey summons US envoy over Syria Kurds row

Jihadist attacks bring Egypt's tourist industry to its knees

‘Hell’ falling on Aleppo

Enormous challenges emerge after full liberation of Ramadi

Hamas fighter dies in latest tunnel collapse

Aleppo siege spells trouble for the West

Egypt policeman jailed for beating vet to death

How many civilians are living under 'surrender or starve' sieges in Syria?

NATO to consider policing refugee crisis

Iran deal will delay bomb up to 15 years

Top spy warns homegrown extremists pose biggest danger to US

UN to Turkey: Open borders to stranded Syria refugees

From Muslim Chechnya to ISIS: Spies collect intelligence to help Russia

Kurdish leader accuses Ankara of 'massacre' over Cizre operation

Kremlin rebukes Merkel over criticism of Russia air strikes in Syria

Nine killed in Damascus car bomb attack

Approval of reformists raises potential for change in Iran

Saudi Patriot missile shoots down Scud fired from Yemen

Syria artists find inspiration in haunting ruins of Homs

Pentagon chief seeks anti-IS support in Europe

Border camps full as Syria families escape regime offensive

Iraq military advance reopens Ramadi-Baghdad road

IEA holds OPEC responsible for oil supply glut

Iraqi woman charged over US hostage death

Mubarak era ‘reappears’ five years after his ouster