Editor's Note: Read updates on the JAC ban: February 10, 2010 and February 25, 2010.

On February 3, the ad hoc committee set up by the Iraqi parliament lifted the ban on the candidates previously barred from participating in the elections because they were suspected of ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Still unconfirmed reports indicate that the committee was composed of four Shia Islamists, two Kurds, and a single Sunni Islamist, with no representation for the secular nationalists who were hit hardest by the ban. The committee did not dismiss the charges against the candidates, instead ruling that they be allowed to run in the elections. If successful, however, such candidates will not automatically take their seats in parliament. Instead, each case will be re-examined—it is unclear by whom—to determined whether that person’s ties to the Baath Party warrant exclusion from political life. The February 3 decision thus removes an obstacle to the elections in the short run—some parties were threatening to call for a boycott of the vote—but could create an even more dangerous crisis later if candidates chosen by the voters are disqualified from serving . 
The lifting of the ban is the result of internal and external political pressures. President Jalal Talabani raised questions about the legality of the Justice and Accountability Commission, which originally banned the candidates; U.S. Vice President Joe Biden flew to Baghdad to urge a compromise that would allow the elections to proceed as scheduled. The decision has already been greeted by a chorus of protest in Baghdad, with many accusing the United States of interference and even calling into question the legality of the reversal. There is no doubt that political rather than legal considerations played the key role in the decision to lift the bans.