In separate events Monday that clouded prospects for next month’s Iraqi elections, a car bomber killed 15 people in an attack against the main Shiite Muslim party and the most prominent Sunni Muslim party said it was dropping out of the race.
The suicide bomb exploded outside the Baghdad residence of a key Shiite political leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, according to a U.S. military spokesman.
Hakim is the first candidate listed on the United Iraqi Coalition, the slate that consolidates electoral hopes for the country’s Shiite majority for the Jan. 30 election.
He has headed the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq since his older brother, Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, was killed by a car bomb in August 2003.
Shortly after the blast, the largest Sunni Muslim political party in the country announced that it was withdrawing from the ballot, citing lack of security. Party Secretary-General Tarek al-Hashemi acknowledged the withdrawal will leave minority Sunnis underrepresented in the elected assembly but added, “We believe when a house is on fire, you should first put out the fire before working on decorating and arranging it.”
But voter registration in Sunni areas has lagged far behind registration in other parts of Iraq, according to Iraq’s top election official, Hussain Hindawi. Voters have not been able to register at all in Anbar province, home to the restive cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. Candidates have proved scarce as well: The 41 openings on Anbar’s proposed provincial council have drawn only 50 candidates.
In another troubling sign, Western diplomats noted that preliminary indicators of voter participation nationwide are markedly lower than expected, judging by the sluggish early rate at which Iraqis have offered corrections to voter rolls.