While both Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement that won Iraq’s 2010 election, and runners up Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law have been courting the Kurdish Alliance to form a new government, the Kurds themselves are not as powerful as they once were. In 2005 the Kurdish Alliance led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) won 53 of 275 seats, 19% of the total. The Kurds became part of the ruling coalition behind both Prime Ministers Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki. As part of the current government, the Kurdish Alliance received the presidency, one deputy prime minister, the deputy speaker of parliament, the Foreign Ministry, the Environmental Ministry, the Industry Ministry, the Housing Ministry, and the Ministry of State At Large. This year, the Kurdish Alliance won 43 of 325 seats, 13% of the total. Some believe that means they will not get as many privileges within any new regime they might join. To enhance their position, the Kurdish Alliance is trying to get the smaller Kurdish opposition parties as well as minority groups to join them.
There are three main Kurdish opposition groups that were first attacked by the Kurdish Alliance for costing them victories in important provinces. The three are the Change List formed by former PUK members, and two religious parties, the Kurdistan Islamic Union and the Kurdistan Islamic Group. The Change List won 8 seats, the Kurdistan Islamic Union 4, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group 2. Immediately after the election, the Kurdish Alliance accused the opposition of costing them a majority in Tamim province. The Kurdish Alliance ended up splitting the twelve seats up for grabs there 6-6 with Allawi’s National Movement. The Kurdish Alliance claimed that the opposition cost them 40,000 votes that could’ve given them the majority.
By the end of March however, the Kurdish Alliance was talking about creating a united Kurdish front. The plan was for all the Kurdish parties to have one voice vis a vis Baghdad and the other political blocs. Together they would not only negotiate the terms of a new governing coalition, but would also have the same position on Kirkuk, Article 140, and other leading Kurdish issues. In turn, the opposition parties wanted a real voice in decision-making in any new alliance, resolution of political differences between the parties, and not to punish any opposition members within Kurdistan. On April 3, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani held a meeting with all the winning Kurdish parties, and they agreed upon terms. In turn, they all decided to support Jalal Talabani for Iraq’s presidency again. Together, the new Kurdish grouping would have 57 seats in parliament.
The Kurdish Alliance also called on all the minority parties to join with them. On April 3, KRG President Barzani asked for the Christian, Shabak, and Yazidi parties to unite with the Kurds. Under the election law Christians received 5 seats, Sabean Mandeans 1, Yazidis 1, and Shabaks 1 as well. Most of these seats went to pro-Kurdish parties. Nothing has been solidified on this front, but the Rafidain List, a large Christian party that received 3 seats, said that they would support the Kurdish Alliance. If all the minorities were to join with the Kurds together they would have 65 seats, putting them on par with the Supreme Council-Sadrist led Iraqi National Alliance that has 70 seats.
The more seats the Kurds are able to accrue the more power and influence they hope to amass in the new government. The KDP and PUK were disappointed by their showing in the March election because of how well the Kurdish opposition parties did, and the fact that Sunnis came out in large numbers for Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement in northern provinces such as Ninewa and Tamim where the Kurdish Alliance did well in 2005. The Kurds were likely to be included in any ruling coalition, but with fewer seats they were afraid of not getting as many top positions. That has led them to the post-voting bloc building with the opposition, and then with the minority parties. Together they hope to resolve the long-standing disputes between the KRG and Baghdad, but if the government is another national unity one that includes all of the major lists, it’s likely to be deadlocked just like the old one because of all of the divergent agendas.
AK News, “Change List: The Kurdish lists will form a united front,” 3/28/10
- “Discords over Kirkuk after Iraq vote,” 3/22/10
- “Gorran emphasizes unified stance and lining up among Kurdish forces,” 3/31/10
- “Kurdish lists endorsed Talabani to become new Iraqi President,” 4/3/10
- “Rafidain List demands to participate in Kurdish Political Bloc Meetings,” 4/4/10
Aswat al-Iraq, “Barazani urges Christian, Shabak, Yazidi winners to merge with KA,” 4/3/10
BBC, “Guide to Iraqi political parties,” 1/20/06
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 3/31/10
Hamad, Qassim Khidhir, “unification among kurdish parties urged,” Niqash, 4/1/10
Jamal, Pshtiwan, “Kurdish options narrowing,” Niqash, 4/7/10
Taha, Yaseen, “claim and counterclaim in kirkuk,” Niqash, 3/18/10
Visser, Reidar, “The Pro-Kurdish Minority Vote,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 3/25/10
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