Kurdistan flag flying next to Kirkuk's castle in early 2017. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A group of Kurdish parties met over the weekend to discuss running in Iraq’s May elections on a joint list in order to strengthen their hand in Baghdad, but failed to reach an agreement, Rudaw has learned.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) hosted the meeting at their politburo office on Saturday, with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, Communist Party in Kurdistan, Kurdistan Toilers Party, and other parties in attendance.
“Kurdistan Islamic Group [Komal] initially wanted to take part in the meeting… but eventually did not attend,” said an attendee at the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The meeting aimed to determine the mechanism of participating on one list in the elections,” said the source, adding, “Unfortunately we did not reach a conclusion because KIU withdrew and other parties had demands. PUK and KDP were left alone.”
“Kurds have never been so divided,” the source said.
This was not the first attempt to bring the parties together.
On January 7, the Kurdish parties, absent KDP, held a meeting at the PUK office in Kirkuk to discuss how to participate in the upcoming Iraqi elections and agreed to devise a new list consisting of all the Kurdistani parties. The KDP, which has refused to enter Kirkuk while it is under Iraqi military “occupation” agreed to the list over the phone.
The would-be alliance ended when Gorran later withdrew.
“KDP did not attend the meeting because of some reasons, but they expressed agreement to a Kurdistani list via a phone call. We then started the process of registering ‘Kirkuk Alliance is our Future’ with the commission of elections. But Gorran called me and said they will withdraw from the alliance,” said Rawand Mala Mahmoud, the PUK's office deputy in Kirkuk.
Iraqi elections are scheduled for May. In the aftermath of the October 16 events when Iraqi forces took control of the disputed areas Kurds were expected to unite in preparation for the May vote, at least forming one list to run in Kirkuk and the other disputed areas.
“The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) tried their best to take part on one Kurdistani list in the Iraqi elections, but the attempts were fruitless,” Khasraw Goran, head of KDP’s election office, told Rudaw.
“Similar to the 2014 elections, the Kurdish parties will seemingly participate in the elections each individually,” he said.
Political pundits argue that 28,000 votes were lost in Kirkuk because Kurds did not run united in the 2014 elections. Gorran, KIU, and Komal ran on different lists. They garnered 28,609 votes, but were unable to win any seats. The PUK won six, and KDP two in Kirkuk.
This year, Gorran, Komal, and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) have formed the joint Nishtiman list to run in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces.
The PUK’s Mala Mahmoud lamented the move. “Unfortunately, the Kurdish parties treat each other with irritation and vengeance. Arabs and Turkmen have formed one list, but Kurds are divided,” he said.
Mala Farman, a Gorran member in Kirkuk, said the coalition welcomes any party to join, but not PUK or KDP.
“The door of our coalition is open to all the parties, except PUK and KDP, since these two parties have failed and brought calamities upon our people. People in Kirkuk and other areas will not vote for these two parties,” he said.
This division of the parties compelled KIU to go it on their own, running independently in the Iraqi elections.
“For the Iraqi elections in Kirkuk and the areas within Article 140, the best choice for us is one list and a shared list of all Kurdistani parties. But we did not have that choice. We as KIU will take part as one list,” Hadi Ali, KIU spokesperson, told Rudaw.
Kurds currently have 62 seats in the 328-seat Iraqi parliament. They have been influential in the formation of the government post-2003, including in the drafting of the constitution.