Iraq has officially kicked off the election season ahead of the March nationwide vote.

Campaign posters were plastered across Baghdad and other cities on Friday, urging people to the polls. In Basra, one poster read: “Your city needs someone who knows what Basra needs.”

But in a move likely to raise tensions between the Shiite-led government and Sunnis who claim they are politically undermined, an Iraqi panel on Thursday barred two prominent Sunni politicians from running in the March 7 election.

The back-and-forth over blacklisting of hundreds of candidates because of ties to Saddam Hussein’s former regime has threatened to mar the balloting process.

U.S. officials hope the election could be a milestone in reconciliation among Iraq’s rival religious groups.

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