Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s parliament is set to issue a resolution giving the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) judicial immunity following its decision to resign this week, in a bid to preserve its independence and impartiality.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Iraqi parliamentary rapporteur Mohamed Al-Khalidi said: “Parliament is moving to pass a resolution granting judicial immunity to the IHEC,” adding, “This will put it in a comfortable position, particularly following the council of commissioners’ decision to resign en masse.”
IHEC officials resigned on Tuesday in protest against what they said was political and judicial interference in the commission’s operations ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30.
“Since IHEC does not want to be party to any conflict, and in order to escape this vicious cycle, the members of the board of commissioners decided to submit their resignations to the chairman en masse and are awaiting his approval if such pressure continues and no radical solution is reached to settle this issue in a bid to maintain the organization’s independence,” they said in a statement on Monday.
The IHEC has come under increasing pressure over the exclusion of several candidates who have arrest warrants issued against them. The judiciary and parliament have been locked in a struggle over the interpretation of a clause of an Iraqi electoral law that allows for the disqualification of candidates based on their “reputation.”
Parliament is of the view that only candidates who have criminal convictions should be excluded, said Mohammed Al-Khalidi, who is also a member of the Mutahidoun bloc.
Iraq’s political parties have exchanged accusations of that the IHEC is being politicized ahead of the hotly contested elections.
In his weekly speech, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki accused parliament of pressuring the IHEC to refrain from excluding candidates, adding that the IHEC commissioners’ resignation will create a political vacuum in the country.
Khalidi denied Maliki’s claims, saying: “Even if the commissioners’ council insists on submitting its resignation, it will remain [in office as] caretaker until the forthcoming elections are held.”
“The parliament will discuss these consequences during its Monday session in order to issue a resolution granting [members of the] IHEC immunity against prosecution,” Khalidi added.
The parliamentary rapporteur denied Maliki’s accusations that the parliament had pressured the IHEC, instead placing responsibility on the government itself.
“The government is pressuring IHEC and working to empty the parliament’s decisions of their content,” Khalidi told Asharq Al-Awsat.