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Iraq leaders pressure high court to rule on suspected Baath party candidates ban

[JURIST] Iraqi leaders on Saturday urged the country's Supreme Court to rule on the recent electoral appeals panel decision allowing about 500 candidates who had been banned for alleged ties to the outlawed Baath party [BBC backgrounder] to run in the March 7 parliamentary elections. The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) [official website] has turned to the Iraq Supreme Court questioning whether last week's ruling is binding. A high-level meeting [AFP report] with judicial officials, which included Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Parliament Speaker Ayad al-Sammaraie [BBC profiles], resulted in a call for the controversy to be resolved by February 12, when the four-week election campaign period kicks off. The Iraqi Parliament has been summoned to an emergency session Sunday to debate whether to postpone the scheduled March 7 elections.

On Thursday, the IHEC postponed [NYT report] the parliamentary elections campaign, originally set to begin Sunday, for five days. Spokesperson for Iraq's Shi'ite government Ali Al-Dabbagh [official website, in Arabic] has called last week's decision [WSJ report] to allow the candidates to run illegal and unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Under the ruling, candidates would only be allowed [Al Jazeera report] to take office after their alleged ties are investigated. In December 2008, Iraq arrested [JURIST report] 23 interior ministry officials for allegedly attempting to rebuild the Baath party. The Iraqi De-Baathification Commission [official website, in Arabic], established in 2003, has prompted the removal [JURIST report] of approximately 30,000 alleged Baathists from public life. In 2008, Iraq adopted the Accountability and Justice law [JURIST report], which allows most former Baathists to be reinstated into public life.

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