Electoral ruling riles Maliki's rivals




A ruling by the Iraqi high court calling for the country's electoral commission to come under the supervision of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Cabinet prompted rival parties Saturday to proclaim the move "a coup against democracy."

The decision by the Supreme Court was posted Friday on its website.

The ruling called for the Independent High Electoral Commission and the anti-corruption board to be supervised by the council of ministers headed by Maliki, who secured a second term two months ago amid accusations that he was becoming an authoritarian leader.

Maliki's supporters say the prime minister, whose office made the request to the high court, is merely trying to fix a broken system.

"For four years, they have not been attached to anyone supervising their work and, as we hear, there is a lot of financial and administrative corruption," said Hanan Fatlawi, a lawmaker from Maliki's bloc. "This is to supervise their work, not to interfere with their work."

The court apparently agreed, reasoning that the electoral commission, created by parliament in 2007, and the anti-corruption body required full-time supervision. The court in its decision emphasized that the institutions should remain independent and free from political interference.

But some parties were suspicious of Maliki and the high court, remembering how the prime minister requested a ruling last year over who had the right to form the next government after an election that saw Maliki and his secular rival, Iyad Allawi, finish in a dead heat.

The court's ruling that the largest bloc in parliament could form the government after a vote effectively allowed Maliki to create a majority with the other main Shiite bloc in parliament.Allawi's Iraqiya bloc expressed its alarm over the latest ruling in a statement Saturday.

"The decision of the federal court to connect the independent boards to the council of ministers directly instead of the parliament … is considered as a coup against democracy," the bloc said.A spokesman for the electoral commission said he too was shocked.

"We … are connected to the parliament, and our appointments are via parliament, and even the heads of our provincial offices should be appointed by the parliament, not the council of ministers. We shall be that [way] in order to have a full independence," Qassim Aboudi said. " Yes, the federal court decision was wrong."

By Ned Parker for the
LA Times. you can contact the author at ned.parker@latimes.com


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