The head of Iraq's electoral commission and one of its members have been arrested on charges of corruption. The move comes as Prime Minister Maliki seeks to exercise his power after the US military withdrawal.
Iraqi authorities arrested the head of the nation's electoral commission and one of its members on corruption charges Thursday, in a move that has government critics concerned that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seeking to centralize his political power.
The head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), Faraj al-Haidari, and commission member Karim al-Tamimi were arrested for allegedly giving bonuses of 100,000 Iraqi dinars ($85 or 65 euros) to some members of the body. Haidari denied that his arrest had anything to do with corruption, telling the news agency Reuters that the bonuses were approved by the Iraqi board of supreme audit.
There is reportedly bad blood between Haidari and Prime Minister Maliki. After the 2010 parliamentary elections, the prime minister's State of Law list called for a recount after coming in second to rival Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya list. Haidari, a 64-year-old Shiite Kurd, only allowed the votes to be recounted in Baghdad province.
Concerns of authoritarianism
Haidari and other IHEC members were summoned before parliament in July 2011 to answer questions about the bonuses, but an attempt to push through a vote of no confidence against the commission failed.
Tensions have been running high in Iraq since US forces withdrew in December 2011. Prime Minister Maliki sought to arrest the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, on terrorism charges, forcing Hashemi to flee to the Kurdish north. Iraq's Shiite dominated government accused the vice president of running death squads against Shiite pilgrims as well as government and security officials.
Since the US withdrawal, Maliki has brought the central bank under cabinet supervision and maintains control over key security ministries, raising concern that he is seeking to consolidate his power.
slk/av (AP, AFP, Reuters)