The Iraqi ad-hoc appeals panel set up to examine the banning of over 500 candidates by the Justice and Accountability Commission has concluded its work, reinstating only 26 candidates. Initially, the appeal panel unbanned all candidates provisionally, reserving the right to re-examine the cases of those who won seats in the election. Responding to outrage by Iraq’s major Shi’i political parties as well as to political pressure, including from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the panel announced that it had gone beyond its legal responsibilities when it thought it should examine all bans and that it only needed to consider the 177 cases where candidates had appealed. Those cases could be examined and resolved before the March 7 elections. A few days later, most of the 177 banned candidates were excluded from the investigation process on the grounds that they had not filed their appeals properly; only 37 cases would be investigated. On February 11, Ali al-Lami, the head of the Justice and Accountability Commission, announced that 26 candidates (out of over 500) had been “unbanned” and could run.

The ban on Saleh al-Mutlaq and Dhafer al-Aani, two of the most critical Sunni players in the Iraqi National Movement coalition was maintained. The banning decision apparently only applies to individuals, not to the parties they lead, contrary to what had been said earlier. Nonetheless, Saleh al-Mutlaq first decided to withdraw his entire party and to boycott the elections in protest against alleged Iranian interference, but later changed his mind. On February 25, Mutlaq stood by Ayad al-Allawi’s side and announced that his party would run “for the sake of change.” To stress the cohesion of all its members, the Iraqi National Movement has formed a legal team to defend its banned candidates. Although hard hit by the bannings, the Iraqi National Movement appears to remain strongly in the running.