ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Campaigning for Iraqi parliamentary elections kicked off in the Kurdistan Region a day after it started in Iraq, due to the commemoration of the Anfal. Some parties will officially commence their campaign on Sunday, however some like the KDP have said they have special arrangements for their campaign and are not in a rush to begin.
The Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and Kurdistan Islamic Movement (KIM) started their campaign together, with a speech delivered by KIU leader Salahaddin Bahaddin in a ceremony to introduce their candidates. KIM leader Irfan Abdul-Aziz, KIU’s former leader Mohammed Faraj, and some leaders and politburo members of the KIU and KIM, also attended the ceremony.
“We hope we together execute an enthusiastic campaign in order to reach the right objectives of this election, which is to send a group of competent and courageous candidates who can protect and achieve the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan nation," Bahaddin said in his speech.
The KIU started its campaign in Kirkuk by raising its flag and that of Kurdistan in the city.
The KDP, which possesses the largest number of Kurdish seats in the Iraqi parliament, 25, will kick off its campaign for the Iraqi parliamentary election on Monday after the election body meets to decide on the place and timing of an official ceremony.
“For this term of the Iraqi parliamentary election, we as the KDP have special slogans, logos, messages and programs but we are not in a hurry to kick off our campaign for the election,” Khasraw Goran, the head of the KDP election body, told Rudaw. “We will hold a meeting of the high committee for electoral preparation and then announce when, where and how, and who will participate in the campaign.”
He said that they will kick off their campaign on Monday.
The KDP has already decided to not run in the province of Kirkuk, considering it “sold out” and “invaded” after Iraqi forces took over the city on October 16, following the pull out of Peshmerga forces in the Region.
“We will not participate in the election in provinces of Kirkuk and Salahaddin. However, we will take part in the elections in Mosul, Diyala and other Kurdistani areas like Zummar, Shingal, Khanaqin, Makhmour, and other places,” he detailed.
The PUK, possessing 21 seats, the second largest in the Iraqi parliament, also started its campaigns on Sunday.
The PUK started its election campaign by delivering a message in its main headquarters in Sulaimani and Chamchamal, and by hanging posters of candidates and the party’s flag in Erbil.
The message calls on party followers and members to take part in the campaign with Kurdish spirit and calm in order to strengthen the unity of the party.
“Election campaigning will take place differently in each place: Erbil, Sulaimani, Badinan, and Garmiyan,” PUK politburo spokesperson Saadi Pira told Rudaw. “That is, they don’t transpire all in one day and at one time. We have a timetable for the election campaigning. More details will come to light after the PUK’s electoral committee meets.”
Pira also said the party’s leadership council will meet in Erbil on Sunday to discuss the PUK's preparations for the Iraqi election.
The Change Movement (Gorran), the second largest party in the Kurdistan Region in terms of parliament seats, 24, and the third largest Kurdish bloc in Baghdad with 8 seats made a visible display of posters of party candidates, flags and slogans across the Kurdistan Region.
A group of Gorran officials met on Saturday night in Erbil to discuss their preparations.
Yousif Mohammed, the former parliament speaker of the KRG and the current head of Gorran’s list for the Iraqi election kicked off their campaigning on Sunday in Erbil.
"Go to vote and show the red card to those few repressive individuals holding authority,” Yousif Mohammed said in a Gorran festival in Erbil.
Gorran is looking for a strong candidate after the death of founder and leader Nawshirwan Mustafa in 2017.
"We want more of your votes so that we grow stronger in effecting greater change,” said Mohammed, all the while emphasizing that they never betrayed their voter’s confidence in the past.
He encouraged voters in the disputed or Kurdistani territories which are claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad to vote for the Homeland List.
"This time vote for Gorran's List No. 142 and Gorran's candidates in the Homeland List No. 183 in the disputed territories."
Mohammed’s speech was followed by the party’s candidates speaking to supporters at the rally.
Gorran, the Islamic Group (Komal) and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) have one joint list called ‘Homeland’ for the Iraqi parliamentary election in Kirkuk. The three parties kicked off their election campaign in Kirkuk on April 14.
The Komal party, having only two seats in Baghdad, also kicked off its campaign.
The leader of Komal Ali Bapir gave a speech in Kirkuk where he said: “Komal works for unity, justice and prosperity for citizens. We are optimistic and hopeful about election results.”
The Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), the newest Kurdish party founded by Barham Salih, a former KRG prime minister, will kick off its campaign with other parties such as the Kurdistan Toilers Party that will be joining them.
The CDJ held an event in Erbil’s Babylon Hall on Sunday.
"Dears, this election is at a time unfortunately when the situation of Kurdistan is not stable, and the future of this nation is in danger. Services are not sufficient,” said Salih in his speech in Erbil on Sunday.
He warned of lessened autonomy for the Kudistan Region.
“Due to reckless and bad policies, we have lost half of our homeland, and the chauvinists are trying to destroy the constitutional entity of Kurdistan,” Salih said.
He touched on a number of topics, such as women’s participation in politics, education, and the economy.
Salih said the Kurdish nation does have a right to self-determination: No one can deny it that right.”
He called on the people to broadly participate in the upcoming elections, saying voting is the only power people have been left with right now.
"We have come and it is our aim to bring back dignity for the people of this country,” Salih, while explaining that CDJ aims to end family monopolization of politics.
CDJ is campaigning to "uplift the injustice" the salary saving system, saying within a period of four years they will give back all the saved money.
The party will commence its campaign in Sulaimani by holding a similar ceremony in Hunar Palace in the province's capital city, where Salih will deliver a speech and party candidates will be introduced.
The New Generation Movement is a new party participating in the political process for the very first time, just like the CDJ. It started its campaigning in most places in the Kurdistan Region by hanging the party’s flag and posters of candidates.
The Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party (KSDP) has its own list for the Iraqi parliamentary election. The party started its campaigning with leader Mohammed Haji Mahmud delivering a speech and introducing party candidates.
“I urge people to participate in the election and vote for lists and candidates who will serve the just cause of our nation, especially in Kirkuk and other disputed areas. People should know who was loyal to the protection of security, peace and coexistence," said Mahmud.
In the meantime, the Iraq's elections body revealed the number of voters, seats, lists and candidates of the Kurdistan Region for the elections on May 12.
Head of the Iraqi elections body Mazin Abdulqadir announced in a press conference that 3,144,730 people across the Kurdistan Region are eligible to vote.
Abdulqadir added that there are 25 election entities in the Region, of which 19 are political parties, 4 alliances as well as two independent candidates.
Overall, there are 503 candidates, of whom 357 are men and 146 women.
In terms of seats, he said parties and candidates compete for more than 46 seats in the Region, of which 16 seats are dedicated to Erbil province, 18 for Sulaimani (including Sulaimani), and 12 for Duhok.
One seat in Erbil and one in Duhok will be dedicated to the minority quota system, namely Christians.