Political parties and politicians who said they won't participate in a plan to name an interim nationwide parliament complain that the process would not be fair.
At the same time, organisers said the national conference originally scheduled for the end of July to elect a 100-member "quasi parliament" from 1,000 delegates was put off for two weeks in an effort to ensure participants represent all of Iraq. Organiser Fuad Masoum said previously
that he expected some parties and politicians not to participate, saying that not everyone would be happy with the process.
The Islamic Party, a Sunni Muslim organisation, has said it would not participate, adding its voice to the Muslim Association of Scholars, which has been called by some a conservative political arm of supporters of former President Saddam Hussein.
And while the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a conservative Shi'ite party, believes it has a broad base of support across Iraq and agreed to attend after haggling over the number of seats it should have in the conference, Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr said he would not participate.
Sadr said he would not attend because he did not feel the conference would be fair, Sheikh Ra'ad al-Khadami, a spokesman in Baghdad, told IRIN. Sadr's Mehdi Army fought US-led troops in the southern city of Najaf in April before an uneasy truce was declared.
Masoum told IRIN that Sadr was invited to the conference, even though he is wanted by US-led administrators in connection with the assassination of a religious rival.
"Is it equal to put Moqtada Sadr's popularity with other political figures that formed a party two weeks ago?" al-Khadami asked, rhetorically. "We're not looking for seats in the government, but we need equality and fairness in the conference."
One of the main problems with the conference is that there has been no broad base of voters naming participants, al-Khadami said. "The mechanism of nomination is fake, because no one is elected," he said. "Our demand is that we need Iraqi people to nominate the conference."
The conference was planned when an interim government was named in a United Nations process in June led by Lakhdar Brahimi, special adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Former Governing Council members, who served in a previous government named by US administrators in November, were tapped to organise and lead the gathering. Members are chosen from around the country according to population numbers determined by food ration cards used by virtually all families in Iraq as part of the former UN-administered Oil-for-Food programme.
"It's a democratic process, but it is not an ideal one because people are not voting," Saad J. Qindeel, acting head of the SCIRI political bureau, told IRIN. "It is something, but not what it should be."
Qindeel said that regardless of complaints at the moment, political parties need to accept the slightly imperfect process to get to a planned January election. Committees are in place to monitor the process so politicians can complain if they believe there are problems, he said.
"We want to have the proper election where everyone has a right to vote and everybody has a right to nominate," Qindeel said. "But these mechanisms have been agreed. People have accepted them."
For the Islamic Party, a personal verbal attack was the last straw that made them decide to withdraw, Ammar Wajeeh, a political bureau member who speaks to the press, told IRIN. Party members believe they may decide to rejoin the conference if some of their concerns are addressed, Wajeeh said.
"The list should be obvious. All people should know the time of the election and no one can threaten others," he added.
Some other parties were also unhappy about some of the aspects of the national conference, but they didn't feel strongly enough to announce that they would not participate, Wajeeh said.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned the importance of holding the conference and national elections by January in a whirlwind visit on Friday. At the same time, newly named President Ghazi al-Yawar in a statement said he was "assuring the commitment of the Iraqi government that the elections will be held on the fixed date January 2005 as it was decided by the administrational state law".
Iraq is currently operating under the transitional administrative law agreed to in November by the then 35-member Governing Council.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions