Nineveh, KirkukNow. Scores of Iraqi Christian political factions and figures compete to win five parliamentary quota seats; this divided political landscape among the Christians, similar to the rest of the country's ethnic and sectarian components, is the result of the absence of consensus required for the formation of an electoral alliance ahead of the national elections planned for May 12, 2018. The sharp divisions between the Christian political elites is faced with strong internal criticism; a number of Christian activists and politicians said the intra-Christian division is the result of the hardship the group has been through in the past such as the invasion of their areas by ISIS as well as the continuous interference in the Christian affairs by both Kurdish and other Iraqi political parties, ruling Erbil and Baghdad. This resentment towards Christian politicians is showing the growing concern and disappointment of not coming together despite what happened to them because of ISIS and also for not seizing the elections' opportunity to agree upon an inclusive discourse. Based on the quota system, Christians have five parliamentary seats in the provinces of Baghdad, Nineveh, Kirkuk, Erbil and Duhok, to represent them in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, but more than seven political parties and dozens of independent candidates compete for these seats. Romeo Hakari, the leader of the Beit Al-Nahrain party and an Iraqi lawmaker, had tried until the final moments before the deadline for registering political alliances in the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), to form an alliance with the "Beit Al-Nahrain Christian Unity" party but his efforts went in vain”. “We tried to enter the elections as one alliance, if not, at least with not more than two alliances.” “We tried to enter the elections as one alliance, if not, at least with not more than two alliances, but that didn’t happen due to narrow political interests; as there are disagreements and self-interest among the Kurds, Sunnis and Shias, it was similar among the Christians" he told KirkukNow. 'There might be certain Christian parties who believe that they are able to get the majority of the seats (Christian Quota Seats) alone, so they didn’t support the formation of an alliance," he added. Christians have more than seven Christian political parties in Iraq; they live in the capital, Baghdad, and are also concentrated in the northern cities of Kirkuk, Erbil, Duhok, Sulaymaniyah and Mosul; their number is estimated to be about 450,000, according to statistics recently released by Christian political parties. With the advance of ISIS in 2014, members of this religious component were forced to leave their historical land in Mosul and Nineveh plains, after they were given three choices, to convert, flee or pay a tax or else they will face death.
"Failure to form a unified list, means division"However, the Assyrian Movement formed an electoral alliance called "the Rafidain Alliance" with the Assyrian National Party; For their part, the Beit Al-Nahrain and Al-Warka, which are Assyrians are in an alliance called "Beit Al-Nahrain Unity"; the Chaldean Union party and the Chaldean National Council are both compete in the elections in a separate alliance. Meanwhile, the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council has decided to independently take part in the much-anticipated polls. A number of the Christian parties had armed factions, which were either loyal to the ministry of Peshmarga of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) or the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). “Division of the political parties has a direct negative impact on Christian voters; failure to form a unified list, means division," said Romeo Hakari; "this division is unsuccessful, because Christians vote for the quota seats in the elections, so it is necessary to participate together with one or two alliances". Hundreds of Christians of Nineveh plains and Mosul were killed or their property and houses were looted under ISIS, however such tragedies did not unify them on a common ground. "After the invasion of ISIS, there were attempts to present a joint Christian project by the Christian parties for our reunification, but several Christian parties which aren’t independent but rather dependent on the largest Kurdish and Shia parties acted against the realization of such a project," Kildo Ramzi, a politburo member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement told KirkukNow. "A number of Christian groups don’t rely on the votes of their constituents, but rather dependent on the support by Kurdish and Shia parties, which vote for them to take away the Christians' votes," Mr. Ramzi said; “he also said he considers such a behavior as a continuous danger to the future of the Christians and their representatives in the Iraqi parliament, emphasizing that, "those candidates won’t become representatives of their people, but the mouthpiece for those parties which support them and interfere in our affairs". The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said it has finalized the process of receiving the lists of candidates for the parliamentary elections on February 15th, and halted the registration of alliances on January 11th; as a result the Christians will be in front of many challenges as they will take part in the race as a scattered community in the polls. For Nawzad Pols, a Christian civil activist, the main reason behind this divisive reality is that several political parties have close ties with the Kurdish parties and others are close to the Iraqi parties. "This clearly affects the efforts of unifying the Christians,” said Pols. "The self-interest and the geographical distribution of the Christians in Kurdistan Region and Iraq are among the influential factors affected the formation of a Christian alliance, despite the great damage that ISIS inflicted on the their territories", he added.
“It’s important for the Christians to unify efforts in the parliament and have a joint agenda.”“It’s important for the Christians to unify efforts in the parliament and have a joint to serve their community" said Vian Abdouka, a Christian women activist speaking to KirkukNow. "Christians' future is under threat, particularly in Baghdad and Mosul; no Christians in the center of Mosul anymore, except in several areas of Nineveh plains since most of them were displaced to the Kurdistan Region,” she added. Meanwhile, she said she blamed the main Iraqi and Kurdish parties as "they try to interfere in the Christians' affairs namely during voting for the quota seats, so it is necessary that Christians themselves stop those groups from the interference. The women activist said, “she called upon the Christian representatives to get united in the parliament and present joint projects to face the extremist rhetoric targeting this inseparable component of the Iraqi community, the Christians, to leave Iraq.”