BAGHDAD, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Two most prominent Sunni politicians have been barred from standing in the March 7 polls by an appeals panel, according to Iraqi state-run television.
Salah al-Mutlak and Dhafir al-Ani, both leading members of a political coalition contesting the election, were banned over links to the Baath party, the Iraqiya TV said late Thursday.
The decision came after Iraqi top leaders demanded the appeals panel complete reviewing the cases of barred candidates before Friday when the election campaigning is scheduled to start after a five-day delay.
The controversial Accountability and Justice Commission in charge of vetting the candidates, compiled a list of some 500 candidates banned from participating in the balloting over alleged links to former President Saddam Hussein's regime. The blacklist aroused concerns about a possible spark of sectarian violence.
The appeals panel on Feb. 3 decided to postpone the review of the barred candidates until after the election due to lack of enough time, which triggered strong opposition from Shiite politicians and protests of Shiites in some cities of the country.
The upcoming parliamentary election is crucial to Iraq's national reconciliation process after a peak of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007 which left tens of thousands dead in the war-torn country.