BAGHDAD — A week before the March 7 parliamentary elections in Iraq, the Iraqi government decided to reinstate 20,000 Saddam Hussein-era army officers who were dismissed from their posts after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq after overthrowing Saddam regime.
The announcement raised questions about whether the move was timed to pump up votes for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the move was not related to the balloting, but was simply a matter of timing because funding for the jobs became available.
But that explanation held little sway with opposition lawmakers who called it a blatant ploy by al-Maliki to win more votes.
A defence ministry statement said the rehired officers would be reinstated as of Sunday. Although they're already allowed to vote, critics contend their new jobs might influence who they vote for on March 7.
The decision effectively lifts the lingering threat that Sunnis would boycott the vote, which the U.S. hopes will bolster national “reconciliation efforts” and pave the way for American combat forces to go home.