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."

 

Britain wants ‘strategic partnership’ with GCC

Morocco PM statement on Russia’s ‘destructive’ role in Syria angers Moscow

Syria forces take control of Aleppo Old City

Over 40 people missing after ship sinks off Yemen

Qatar to invest up to $13bn on 'mega projects' in 2017

Turkish businessmen embrace Erdogan’s plan to boost lira

Syria rebels call for Aleppo ceasefire

Battle for Mosul advances deeper into city

Iran to sign deal with Shell in bid to boost output

Israeli missiles strike targets outside Damascus

Hollande condemns Russia’s ‘systematic obstruction’ of Syria ceasefire

Turkey doing 'everything possible' to push Syria talks between Russia, opposition

Turkish soldiers killed in Syria bomb blast

Russia army colonel dies after Aleppo rebel shelling

Libyan forces hunt remaining jihadists in Sirte

Iraqi jailed in Sweden for war crimes after Facebook post

Regime forces seize five Aleppo districts from rebels

Israeli artist erects golden Netanyahu statue in protest

Russia says US stalling on Aleppo rebel pullout

Saudi sentences 15 to death for being Iranian spies

US defence secretary says Mosul battle could end before Trump

US, NATO stress 'unity' as Trump raises doubts

Greece to extradite three Turkish coup officers

Egypt arrests 25 human organ traffickers

Israel far right hails bill to 'legalise' settler homes

Merkel says Aleppo situation ‘disgrace’

Iranian president says sanctions renewal proves US still ‘enemy’

Yemen arrests eight IS suspects in Aden

Turkey arrests opposition advisor over alleged Gulen links

Russia says OPEC, non-OPEC countries to meet in Vienna

British PM joins GCC summit for trade talks

Israel government nears deal that could 'legalise' settler homes

Yemen's Hadi would only give way to 'elected' leader

Russia says medic killed, others injured in Aleppo fighting

Greek court rejects extradition of Turkey officers

Sudan court frees 26 protesters

Syria rebels to reject Aleppo withdrawal plan

Libya loyalist forces capture Sirte

Israeli envoy to Turkey resumes work after 2010 fallout

New Iraqi law legitimising militias sparks controversy

Israel lifts ban on parcel post to Gaza

Russia, US to hold talks on rebel pullout from Aleppo

UN appeals for $22.2 billion in global aid

Air strikes kill at least 46 in Syria's Idlib

Kerry accuses right-wing Israelis of sabotaging peace process