Tag Archives: Iraqi elections

After two Maliki terms and broken promises, wary Kurds keep “all options on the table”

With the much anticipated Iraqi election results yet to announced, it is certain that the next government formation will be as fraught as 2010 and that Iraq will struggle to stitch together its falling pieces.

For the Kurds, for all their criticism of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Baghdad, they played a crucial hand in creating the Maliki monster. Complaint of Maliki’s centralist tendencies and lack of real intent to resolve key issues between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region goes back to Maliki’s first tenure at the helm.

After much hesitation and months of negotiations, the Kurds played a crucial role in the eventual breakthrough that saw Maliki secure a second term. The basis of the Kurdish partnership on both occasions was several firm demands and countless promises from Maliki.

Yet not only were most of these promises not kept in the first term but Maliki with growing power and dominance decided that the majority of the promises that underpinned the second term went openly unfulfilled as well.

Now as State of Law Coalition looks certain to secure most seats in the elections, Maliki is already attempting to piece together votes for a third term in power.

Kurdish support amidst failed promises the first time is unfortunate, for a second time unacceptable and now for a third time it would be unforgivable.

11 years since the fall of Saddam is hardly a small window of opportunity for progress and implementation of key steps. However, much of the key demands of the Kurds have failed to be implemented. Disputed territories remain unresolved, national budget continues to undermine Kurds, a national census continues to be postponed, a national hydrocarbon law does not exist and Baghdad continues to try and maintain the umbilical cord to Kurdistan.

This week Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani was unambiguous on his view of Maliki and the downward spiral in Iraq, labeling governance under Maliki as “totalitarianism” and with “no partnership”. “He is the number one responsible for it. He was capable of not allowing the whole process to go in that direction,” Barzani added.

Barzani warned that “all options are on the table,” for the Kurds, threatening to boycott the whole process.

The Kurdish patience is wearing thin and Barzani is clearly does not want entertain further waiting games for several more years but instead emphasised the time for “final decisions”.

Barzani’s statements come as Maliki attempted to reach out to the Kurds, ironically as debates over oil exports threaten to escalate and as the Kurdish share of the budget has been frequently withheld to pressure the Kurds.

After months of delays and lack of progress with Baghdad, Kurdistan has decided to sell oil independently with Baghdad promising strong retaliation of their own. However, Barzani is not about to back down from this game changing and historical decision for Kurdistan.

For the Kurds, tangible and guaranteed actions are needed as opposed to the usual rhetoric and promises if they are to join the next government. If it takes several months to achieve these practical steps to convince the Kurds and delay government formation then so be it. It is better to waste months rather than more years.

The Kurds cannot be held accountable for the deepening disintegration of Iraq, Maliki’s centralist policies and failure to curb sectarianism and insurgency have already done plenty to ensure that.

Back home, the Kurds must quickly form a much delayed unity government. As Kurdish parties continue negotiations and consultations, Barzani stated “all Kurdish political parties now have a common stance on how to deal with Baghdad and the next steps in the Iraqi political process.”

A Kurdish position that is not endorsed by all regional parties will simply be exploited by Maliki and his backers in Tehran and greatly weaken the Kurdish hand.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

As Iraqis mark 3rd national elections and yearn for change – reconciliation, national unity and progress remains as elusive as ever

With a high turnout amidst an ongoing threat of violence, the 2014 Iraqi parliamentary elections, the first since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq, were met with an air of optimism by Baghdad and international powers alike. However, any positive sentiment on the surface has to be taken with a big pinch of salt.

With the latest national elections marking the third such occasion, parliamentary elections are hardly new for Iraq and it has already surpassed 11 years since the overthrow of Saddam.

Fed up of rampant corruption, lack of public services, continued threat of terrorism and high unemployment in spite of the billions of dollars Iraq receives from oil revenues, people voted in high numbers with an eagerness for change and a new passage.

The burning question is whether Iraqis, with the exception of the Kurdistan Region, really enjoy a better standard of living and better services since 2003 and whether a new government will mean a change to their fortunes.

It says much about the escalating bloodshed in Iraq that Baghdad deemed it a success that “only” 14 people were killed on polling day.

A frequent theme of the post-Saddam period, especially under the taxing tenure of the US, was national reconciliation, enticing the disaffected Sunnis into the political fold and an effective sharing of power that would appease Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds alike.

In 2014, Iraq is probably as far as ever from national unity or reconciliation. Iraq was built around three distinct segments and effectively will always be fractured. It is a question of how to “glue” the constituents the best way possible knowing that there will never be a perfect fit.

For a start national unity governments based on a quota system are always going to fail. Due to the fragmented nature of the Iraqi ethno-social picture elections can feel like a national census than a real democratic passage.

For example, Shiites clearly form a majority of the Iraqi population and will dominate Iraqi elections even if you held the elections another 10 times over. Sunnis and Kurds will always dominate their local sphere but never at a national level and thus remain at risk of marginalisation.

Effectively, this mix makes a very protracted and arduous task of satisfying all parties.

Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a prime example of the Iraqi divide. He is reviled by Sunnis for sidelining them from politics, promoting a sectarian agenda, failing to address Sunni discontent and fuelling the revived Sunni insurgency. At the same time, he is been heralded in other circles as the strongman that can overcame the insurgency and keep Iraq intact.

The Kurdistan Region on the other hand has been at loggerheads with Baghdad right from day one and has frequently accused Maliki of centralist tendencies and policies that set to deliberately undermine Kurdish progress and keep the lifeline of the Kurds within Baghdad hands.

Yet, Maliki’s State of Law is likely to be triumphant at the polls.   Of course, he has is far from securing the 165 seats majority needed and his third tenure as Prime Minister is far from certain but he will start in the driving seat. Maliki’s first move would be to entice the other weary and cautious Shiite coalitions in the Citizen Coalition, led by Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, the Ahrar coalition of Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr and the National Reform Alliance led by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The four main Shiite coalitions alone represent 42 political entities, many with differing views and agendas, highlighting the disjointed and difficult nature of Iraqi politics.

With the Shiite alliances representing a significant portion of the seats, add to the considerable Sunni and Kurdish vote, the number of possible permutations to form government are considerable.

This inevitably means that political jockeying and negotiations may well run into many months as in 2010.

The Kurds were deemed the kingmakers at the past elections and are likely to muster close to the 57 seats secured in 2010. Having supported Maliki’s two tenures as Prime Minister in spite of numerous failed promises and Maliki’s continued stand against Kurdistan, the main Kurdish political parties will need to be certain that whoever they rubber stamp in Baghdad can give them their key demands of oil exports, share of the national budget and seemingly forgotten resolution to disputed territories.

If Maliki continues as premier and centralist policies against Kurdistan continue, or conversely if the Sunni insurgent fire is not contained, Iraqis may not see another national election come 2018.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

With cabinet formation, Iraqi national elections and Kurdistan provincial elections, April set to prove a crucial month for Kurdistan Region

April will prove to be a pivotal month for Kurdistan. Campaigning is well underway for the Kurdistan provincial elections as well as the Iraqi national elections on 30th April 2014. Meanwhile, there is a renewed sense of optimism that the disappointing 6 month deadlock over government formation will be finally broken this month ahead of those elections.

This view was affirmed by Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani who expressed optimism that the 8th cabinet would be announced before the upcoming elections.

The onset of a new government in Kurdistan will end a bitter stalemate that threatened broader Kurdish interests in Baghdad and the region.

The formation of a new government and the distribution of ministerial seats to please all parties amidst the breaking of a long-established status quo and a power shift were never going to be easy. The KDP were the clear victors at the polls but it was the escalating political battle between Gorran and the PUK that proved to be achilles heel.

The PUK is already suffering internal strain and a power struggle and has failed to accept Gorran as a stronger power after decades of PUK domination of the Sulaimaniya province and a strategic sharing of power with the KDP.

Crucially, there is growing momentum that the next cabinet will be an inclusive government that will include the five main political that won the most votes in the Kurdistan legislative elections. That is at least one positive prospect from the growing frustration over the political stalemate.

It would have been easy to form a majority based government but the KDP in particular encouraged the participation of the PUK and Gorran in the new cabinet to strengthen the Kurdish hand in the region.

In recent weeks, there was a growing danger that the PUK would boycott the government all together. In fact rhetoric between the PUK and KDP slowly turned sour as parties blamed each other for the failure to form government. The rift highlighted that the KDP was not willing to unconditionally prop-up its former strategic ally and would turn to Gorran if necessary to spear-head the next government

According to recent speculation, the KDP will receive the interior ministry, in addition to the ministries of natural resources, education, municipalities and planning. Gorran was to receive the ministries of Peshmerga, finance, trade and religious affairs.

The ministry of Peshmerga was crucial for Gorran as it tried to exert influence on security forces historically dominated by the KDP and PUK.

Meanwhile, the PUK was to assume the post of deputy prime minister after Gorran relinquished this post as well as the ministries of culture, higher education, reconstruction and health.

The speaker of parliament was to be given to Gorran with the deputy speaker from the KDP. The Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) and the Islamic League (Komal) will also receive some ministries with minority groups also receiving some posts.

The Kurdistan provincial elections will be a crucial litmus test of the Kurdish political landscape. It may well underline the demise of the PUK in the Sulaimaniya province. In this light, Kurdistan government formation could have logically concluded after the provincial elections when the local factors were clearly on view.

Of course, such delay was made difficult by Iraqi elections taking place at the same time. The cabinet formation stand-off was in the middle of a fierce despite between Kurdistan and Baghdad over oil exports and the national budget. It is vital that the Kurds have a strong united hand in Baghdad and as such a cabinet formation ahead of the Iraqi national elections is of symbolic importance as they fight for a strong voice to protect Kurdish interests.

A weak Kurdish position in the post-election Iraqi cabinet formation period will greatly dilute Kurdish goals of protecting the region against growing centralist policies and as well as the general development of the region.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc