Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kurdish Leadership Attempts To Rally Opposition Behind Kirkuk-Election Law Dispute

As Iraq’s parliament met today, a new election law wasn’t even on the agenda. The Kurdish Alliance boycotted the session denying the legislature the quorum necessary for a discussion. Sunday, November 1, 2009 is the new deadline to hold a vote, but no one is holding their breath.

The most recent breakdown occurred when the Kurdish Alliance objected to the Political Council for National Security’s proposal to use the 2004 voter roles for the balloting in Tamim, the home of Kirkuk. The idea was to use the voter lists that were compiled before large numbers of Kurds moved to the city after the 2003 U.S. invasion. The Kurdish parties claim these people were simply returning to the homes they lost under Saddam, while many Arab and Turkmen residents claim that far more have moved to the province then were expelled, believing it to be a move by Kurdistan to create facts on the ground to legitimize their desire to annex Kirkuk. The Kurdish Alliance demands that Tamim use the 2009 voter roles, and be treated just like any other governorate, with no special qualifications. A Kurdish parliamentarian went as far as threatening a veto by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani of any bill that treats Kirkuk differently.

The two ruling parties in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are trying to rally the Kurdish opposition behind them over this controversy. All the major Kurdish parties did hold a meeting where they all agreed to have a united stance on Kirkuk and the election law. The PUK and KDP took it a step further saying that since there were still so many disputes with Baghdad that all the Kurds needed to stand together in a united list in the 2010 elections. The two major opposition groups, the Change List and the Kurdistan Islamic Union, however refused to go along, saying that the PUK and KDP would monopolize any gains made by a united front. The ruling parties have been known to use Kirkuk before to rally Kurds behind them, while ignoring their own shortcomings in the KRG. The two parties are known for cronyism, corruption, and clamping down on dissent, all of which led to the Change List winning 25 seats in the Kurdish parliament in the 2009 KRG elections, the most ever for an opposition group. Since then, the ruling parties have been trying to co-opt and intimidate Change and others. The PUK and KDP won a small victory in getting the Change List and the Islamic Union to agree with them on the election law, but they still haven’t been able to bring them under their sway.

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Kurd leader demands control of oil-rich Kirkuk,” Associated Press, 10/27/09

Agence France Presse, “Iraq MPs fail to reach quorum for election law vote,” 10/29/09

Alsumaria, “Kurdistan leader calls for Kirkuk elections,” 10/29/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Parliament’s agenda without election law,” 10/29/09

Chon, Gina, “Kurds Plan to Boycott Iraqi Vote On Kirkuk,” Wall Street Journal, 10/29/09

Hamad, Qassim Khidhir, “kurds seek unity in struggle with baghdad,” Niqash, 10/29/09

Visser, Reidar, “The IHEC Invents New Problems,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 10/29/09

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