Sunni Group Boycotts Vote, Raises Iraqi Tension
Leader hopes other Sunni groups will join
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 20, 2010 8:00 AM CST
An Iraqi woman chants as others hold pictures of Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, left, in Baghdad Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
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(Newser) – A top Sunni Arab lawmaker banned from running in Iraq's March 7 election withdrew his entire party from the campaign today and called on other groups to join the boycott, a move that threatened to undermine the credibility of the vote and raise sectarian tensions. In announcing his decision, Saleh al-Mutlaq seized on US concerns about Iran's influence in the political process, an allegation likely to resonate with a Sunni community historically suspicious of Tehran's clerical rulers.

The Sunni leader's decision to withdraw all the candidates from the vote could open the door to a new round of sectarian bloodshed at a time when the Americans may no longer be able to act as a buffer again between the majority Shiites and the once-dominant minority Sunnis. So far, however, no other Sunni groups have joined the boycott. The government banned al-Mutlaq and about 400 other mostly Sunni candidates because of suspected ties to Saddam's old regime.