BAGHDAD, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The unrest and anti-government protests in Iraqi Sunni provinces could be main obstacles to the country's provincial poll due in April, an official of the Iraqi electoral commission said Thursday.
"We do have some concerns about the current protests in some provinces. The continuation of tensions could create problems to the polls," the official of Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said, referring to demonstrations of the Sunni Arab community who complained about marginalization by the Shiite- led government.
Sunni Arabs started massive protests more than a month ago in the Sunni province of Anbar. The protests quickly spread in cities of the Sunni provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahudin and Diyala, as well as in Baghdad's Sunni districts.
The angry protesters complained about injustice and marginalization, claiming that the Shiite-led Iraqi security forces were indiscriminately arresting their sons and torturing them.
The official also said some of the commission employees have received threats from militant groups warning them not to take part in the polls in Salahudin and Nineveh provinces.
"This is dangerous, such threats increase our concerns about the polls," he said.
He also revealed that some 130 candidates out of 8,224 who had registered to compete in the elections have been barred by the country's Accountability and Justice Commission (AJC).
AJC, previously known as the Debaathification Commission, is a body in charge of vetting candidates for ties to former leader Saddam Hussein's Baath party members and prevent them from participating in political life.
Earlier, the Iraqi cabinet set April 20 as the date for the country's provincial elections to elect members of the councils of provinces which are not organized into regions, which means the elections will be held in 15 of the country's 18 provinces, as the other three provinces are part of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
The latest provincial elections in Iraq were held on Jan. 31, 2009. The local elections are due to be held every four years, according to the Iraqi constitution.