Party banners hang in Kirkuk ahead of the 2014 elections in Kirkuk. Photo: Rudaw
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region — Kurdish political parties, except for the KDP, met in Kirkuk on Sunday in order to discuss the creation of a joint single list for the parties to run for the May 2018 general elections in Iraq.
“In today’s meeting of the Kurdistani parties, forming a joint list of the Kurdistani parties to run for the parliament and provincial elections in Kirkuk will be discussed. We are seeking to create the list,” Jamal Shakur, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official in Kirkuk, told Rudaw.
The list will be open and thus “our Arab and Turkmen brothers could join it,” he added.
Concerning the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s refusal to participate in the meeting, Shakur said the KDP had liked the project and did not reject it.
“It is true that a KDP representative did not participate in the meeting, but they preferred the idea and did not reject it. We wish we could make the project happen as it is important for Kirkuk at this time,” he explained.
Mohammed Khurshid, the head of the KDP branch in Kirkuk, said they were not ready to hold meetings in an “invaded” city.
“In our opinion, Kirkuk is occupied and sold out. Therefore, we are not participating in meetings in an invaded city,” he said.
However, Khurshid echoed the need for forming a joint list for the Kurdish parties in Kirkuk to run for the elections.
“We deem a single list and unanimity of Kurds in Kirkuk or anywhere else as good,” he voiced. “The creation of this joint list in Kirkuk is contingent upon the outcome of today’s meeting between the KDP and PUK in Sulaimani.”
In Sulaimani, KDP and PUK leaders met
, saying the Kurdistan Region is in a “new phase,” while prioritizing the resolution of crises facing the Region.
“Both sides agreed that what could lead us to success is that we, as all the Kurdistani parties, be united including all the other components and together pass the current hard phase engulfing the Kurdistan Region,” said KDP deputy head Nechirvan Barzani, who is also KRG prime minister.
Iraqi provincial and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May. The KRG is yet to set a date for theirs.
Kirkuk, unlike the rest of Iraq, has held only one provincial election in 2005 since the US-led invasion about 14 years ago. The election law therefore that regulates the work of the rest of the Iraqi provinces does not apply to Kirkuk.
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, the KDP and the PUK were the two major parties in Kirkuk. But despite running on a joint list in most previous Iraqi elections, they decided to run separately in the April 30 polls due to political disagreements.
As of November 2017, the offices of most of the Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen parties in Kirkuk were open, but the provincial headquarters of the KDP was under the control of Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (ICTS).
Despite Kirkuk’s large Kurdish population the province’s Arab and Turkmen candidates present a formidable force.
Oil-rich and diverse Kirkuk city historically has been a PUK stronghold.
Iraq's army abandoned the city in June 2014 ahead of an ISIS offensive. It was controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga.
Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri, a Sunni Arab was appointed to the post by the prime minister temporarily after the Iraqi parliament voted to remove Najmaldin Karim as governor. Karim is a member of the PUK. The position of Kirkuk governor was given to the PUK as part of the party’s election entitlement.
Kirkuk participated in Kurdistan Region’s 2017 independence referendum. On October 16, Iraqi forces supported by Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitias began an operation to control of Kirkuk and its oil fields. The province remains Kurdistani or disputed and is claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil, until Article 140 is implemented.
The KRG’s interior ministry stated more than 168,000 civilians were displaced from Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Khurmatu, Zummar, and Rabea to the Kurdistan Region, a week after the incursions. Some have reportedly returned home, while others have said their homes were destroyed by the Iran-backed Hashd and no longer feel safe to go back.