Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of the ruling parties in Kurdistan Region, leaves thousands of voters and supporters behind by boycotting the Iraqi parliamentary elections in Kirkuk province on the pretext of lack of stability in the disputed territories.
The party’s decision, led by Massoud Barzani, which was made in mid-January this year, said that the reason for not participating in the elections of next May is the Iraqi government’s military and security forces’ actions to change the disputed areas to “military bases” after regaining control over them on October 16 , 2017.
“We decided to boycott the Iraqi parliamentary elections in Kirkuk and the disputed areas because those areas are now under military occupation and unstable, therefore elections must not be held” Adnan Kirkuki, a member of the KDP’s Kirkuk-Garmian leadership council told KirkukNow.
Kirkuki’s statement is the echo of his party’s boycott rhetoric in which “occupation” was used for labelling the Iraqi army and other federal forces’ presence after their return to Kirkuk as well as other disputed territories following the controversial withdrawal of the Peshmarga forces of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in October 16, 2018.
“Kirkuk is under military occupation and it’s unstable.”
The Iraqi army’s return to the areas described as the source of “instability” by the party, as the Kurdish region wrestled with Baghdad over independence following September25, 2017 referendum, rejected by Baghdad and other countries around the world
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which alongside the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)—runs the KRG, has refused to return to most of the disputed territories. Although in the party’s statement, the disputed areas were generally mentioned, but later it was changed to boycott polls in Kirkuk, Diyala and Salahadden provinces; and eventually, the decision was confined to include Kirkuk and the other areas specifically excluded from participation.
Khasrow Goran, head of the KDP election office, told his party’s media on January 17, 2018 that, “KDP will take part in the elections in Nineveh province, Sinjar and Mahkmoor constituencies”, emphasizing his party’s determination to boycott Kirkuk polls.
The KDP had 63, 000 votes in Kirkuk province, according to the 2014 parliamentary elections; with two seats out of the 13 seats of the oil-rich province in the Iraqi parliament.
Meanwhile, a number of citizens of Kirkuk besides voicing their criticisms of the Kurdish parties, called upon the Kurdish politicians to get united instead of the boycott.
“For me, the previous elections were insignificant, but this time the KDP and all the others must participate because the elections determine the nation’s future (Kurds),” said Layla Ali, an employee in the Kirkuk’s directorate of electricity.
The KDP said it would change itS decision, if a unified Kurdish electoral list was announced; the precondition was never met as the Kurdish parties failed to form a unified list, following serious of meetings. By now, the Kurds have an alliance (Nishtiman- The Homeland), beside several other separate lists.
“KDP’s decision is unfair to its grassroots.”
The PUK, a long-time ally of the KDP, has criticized the latter’s decision over the boycott and consequently rejected the KDP’s request to follow suit.
“The boycott by the KDP is unfair against its supporters, since the KDP won a number of votes in the past the party had some votes and there’s nothing to boycott and withdraw from (the process),” Rawand Mala Muhammad, deputy head of the PUK office in Kirkuk told KirkukNow
“The KDP had an influence in Kirkuk in the past and they secured two parliamentary seats in the last polls; however this might not be the case this time, and they will probably lose the two seats therefore they withdraw from the race,” he added.
Apart from Kirkuk, The KDP stayed hesitant in it decision relevant to other disputed areas; it has immediately changed course and declare separate electoral lists in Nineveh and Diyala provinces and other disputed territories despite already been “claimed as unstable”.
“The majority of our members and supporters no longer present in Nineveh after been displaced to Kurdistan Region, therefore the situation inside the province won’t affect our participation,” said head of the KDP election office.
The KDP won six out of 34 seats of Nineveh province in the April, 2014 polls, leaving the Kurdish party with no seats in both Diyala and Salahadden provinces.
“Upon the request of the party’s grassroots in Khanaqin, we reviewed the decision to boycott polls in the Diyala province; after the approval of our leadership, our party decided to take part in Diyala province,” Ibrahim Aziz, head of election department in KDP’s Branch in Khanaqin told KirkukNow.
Aziz also said that, “Khanaqin’s situation is different if compared to other areas such as Tuz Khurmatu and Kirkuk since the residents here weren’t killed or displaced and their properties weren’t looted”.
The KDP has already said they were the main victim of the return of the Iraqi federal forces to the disputed areas, namely Kirkuk; the party’s officials have already told KirkukNow that dozens of their offices were set in blaze or seized, preventing from the resumption of political activities.
“A total of 16 KDP offices besides 28 centers and civil society organizations of the party were seized, burnt or looted,” Adnan Kirkuki said.
Iraq’s parliament has already voted to hold provincial elections in Kirkuk for the first time in 13 years on December 22, 2018; it is unclear yet whether the Kurdistan Democratic will follow the suit and boycott the provincial elections as well.