Dozens of residents from Hawija and nearby towns demonstrated Saturday (January 9th) to protest the Accountability and Justice Commission's (AJC) recent decision to exclude 15 political parties from participating in the March 7th parliamentary election.
Demonstrators carried pictures of MP Saleh al-Mutlak, president of the Iraqi Front for National Dialog and Dr. Nehru Abdel-Kareem al-Kasnazani, leader of the Iraqi Rally of National Unity.
"The decision has a political motive that targets figures who are trying to build a national project, strengthen state power and ensure the integrity and patriotism of its security institutions," said Ali Hamad Mahmoud, a demonstrator.
"We call on the Iraqi judiciary to be decisive and cancel this unjust decision because it comes at a time when certain forces are trying to drag Iraq back to square one and ignite sectarian strife," he added.
The AJC announced the exclusion of the 15 political parties last Thursday, citing the affiliation of their leaders with the disbanded Baath Party. One of the most prominent parties excluded is the Saleh al-Mutlak-led Iraqi Front for National Dialog, which forms a part of the Iraqi List that is led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
Al-Mutlak criticised the AJC's decision and threatened to resort to the Federal Court and international court to appeal the decision.
In a press conference held Friday at his headquarters in Baghdad, al-Mutlak said, "There is a political stance behind this decision. Some political blocs exercised pressure to have it issued."
Al-Mutlak accused certain politicians, who he described as "pro-Iran", of influencing the AJC.
"This decision is not an Iraqi decision," he said. "They took it because they felt that they were dying politically, and that change was imminent. Therefore, they rushed the decision."
Meanwhile, Iraqi MPs had differing reactions to the AJC's decision.
MP Rasheed al-Azzawi of the Iraqi Accordance Front expressed his astonishment with the decision, and wondered why it wasn't issued before the 2005 parliamentary election.
"Saleh al-Mutlak is the head of a big front and was a member of the National Assembly," said al-Azzawi, who is also a member of AJC. "He took part in writing the Constitution and participated in the 2005 parliamentary election. He has the right to appeal the decision."
Al-Azzawi downplayed the suggestion, however, that there were political motivations behind the decision
"We can judge this decision only after we review its reasoning," he said.
MP Jamal al-Bateekh, head of the Iraqi National List, said that contacts were made by his group with the presidency council to resolve the issue.
"Saleh al-Mutlak contributed to the writing of the constitution, he leads an important bloc and is a believer in the political process in Iraq. He just can't be excluded in this way," said al-Bateekh.
"There are some political blocs that are behind this issue for election-related purposes to exclude the competing opponents from the next parliamentary election," he added.
But Ali al-Allaq, a leader of the Islamic al-Dawa party, downplayed the likelihood that there were political goals behind this issue.
"The AJC and the Independent High Electoral Commission take into consideration the history of candidates who run for parliamentary elections," al-Allaq said.
"If the candidates belonged to the Baath Party or embraced its approach, they would be excluded. The decision conforms to the constitution and doesn't involve any political dimensions. There are no political parties behind the decision as al-Multak is claiming."
During the demonstrations that took place Saturday in Hawija, Ihsan Idham al-Juboori, vice president of the Iraqi Front for National Dialog in Kirkuk, said that the demonstrations "are a cry from the people of Hawija to express their opinion and to call for participation in the electoral process".