Kirkuk provincial council members. Photo: Rudaw
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Arabs in Kirkuk are demanding a delay in next month’s Iraqi legislative elections in the multiethnic province, where the Kurds and Turkomans insist the polls must go as planned.
The Arab Political Council wants the polls delayed because of the security situation, and it wants a ban lifted on candidates who want to run.
"Certainly, we demand the postponement of parliamentary elections until an amendment can be made to ensure participation and provide the desired security and confidence in democratic participation," said Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Asai, head of the Arab political Council.
The council, which operates as a representative body for most Arab parties and tribes in Kirkuk, consistently accuses Kurds of engaging in election fraud and attempts to change the demography.
The council statement said that elections should not be held at a time when the security situation in Kirkuk has deteriorated. It said that military operations and terrorist attacks have increased dangerously in Kirkuk.
The council has made similar demands in all previous elections in Iraq since 2003. While no legislative elections have been delayed in Kirkuk, the province has had only one provincial election since 2005, in which the Kurdish brotherhood list won more than 59 percent of the votes and currently has the major administrative posts and the governorship.
The Iraqi Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Kirkuk announced last week that the province has topped all Iraqi provinces in distributing voter smartcards for the eligible voters. According to IHEC, 83,2116 people are eligible to vote and 65,5643 smart cards have been distributed, amounting to 80 percent.
"The Arab component did not get an answer in Kirkuk for many scattered names of the smart cards of voters" said al-Asai, referring for the voters that need to travel to other districts or sub-districts to cast their votes.
"Some (voters) live in a specific region and their names appear in other areas 20 to 70 kilometers away from their places of residence,” he complained.
While in the past Arabs and Turkomans had joined forces in demanding the elections be postponed, now the Turkomans have shifted away from earlier positions.
"Any delay (in elections) means blowing the political process and is a breach of the constitution and the laws of the country," said Tahssin Kahya, a Provincial Council member who is a Shiite Turkoman.
"The Council of Representative would lose its legitimacy by the end of this tenure; we favor conducting elections within its deadline," he added.
"Delay of the election is unconstitutional and election must be held by its deadline," said a Kurdish official in Kirkuk. "Anyone who has complaints, they can submit them to IHEC for investigation," he added.
Kurdish efforts in Baghdad have failed to bring any change in the stance of the legislative and executive branches in Baghdad to hold provincial elections in Kirkuk.
Kurds have constantly accused Baghdad of hindering elections in Kirkuk.
A former advisor of Ayyad Allawi, the leader of the Sunni al-Iraqiya coalition, believes that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki favors a delay in the polls. “It (the election delay) is politically motivated and we think that they (Arabs) have been incited by the prime minister to delay the elections," the official said.
Iraq’s legislative polls are scheduled for April 30. However, the worsening security situation could potentially delay them in Anbar province, where the Iraqi army continues to clash with Sunni insurgents and elements of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).