Monday, February 22, 2010

Campaigning Curfew Imposed On Sulaymaniya

On February 19 the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that it was imposing a 9 pm to 6 am curfew on all campaigning in Sulaymaniya. The ban was to last until campaigning officially ends on March 5. The parliamentary elections are to occur on March 7. The decree happened after a number of clashes in the province between rival political factions. The most recent event was when security forces loyal to the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) arrested 11 members of the new Change opposition list in downtown Sulaymaniya city. The Change List accused the security forces of shooting and wounded three of its members, while the PUK blamed the opposition group for firing shots in the air that provoked the incident. Just before the incident, the Change List had called on the KRG to end unrest between the various political entities in Sulaymaniya. It said there had been arrests and violence against its members as the election neared, and called on the Kurdish parliament to launch an investigation into the matter. The Iraqi Election Commission has also received 7 complaints about campaign violations in the governorate. Some of those occurred in the Qaladze district where all of the main parties accused each other of tearing down their opponents’ posters. In Sulaymaniya there are 155 candidates from nine different entities running for 17 parliamentary seats.

This year will be the first that the Kurdish vote will face major divisions in national elections. In 2005 the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), along with some smaller parties all ran together and won 53 seats in parliament. This time there are four main challengers vying for the loyalties of the Kurdish electorate. Those are the Kurdish Alliance of the ruling PUK and KDP, the Change List, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group. The Change List is the main threat to the Kurdish Alliance. They won 23.7% of the vote in the 2009 Kurdish elections, including a majority in Sulaymaniya, and are hoping to build on that. They have done little since the 2009 regional vote however, with their main activity being complaining that their members are being harassed and arrested by the PUK and KDP. It’s likely that the Kurdish Alliance and Change List will also cooperate in the legislature after the vote, since they share many of the same concerns vis a vis the central government and on topics like Kirkuk. All of this controversy and bickering then before the March vote is more about pure power than a real difference of views.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Curfew on election campaign in northern Iraqi province,” 2/19/10

AK News, “Electoral campaign led to violence in northern Iraq,” 2/18/10
- “Kurdish lists in Qaladze accuse each other of violations,” 2/1/10
- “IHEC: 7 complaints in Sulaimaniyah so far,” 2/18/10

Khalid, Shorish, “Kurdish War of Words,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 1/28/10

Muhammad, Sardar, “kurds are split in the 2010 elections,” Niqash, 2/18/10

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