Turkmen unite in Kirkuk for parliamentary elections yet its leadership controversial

Turkmen community ballot in Iraq’s 2018 parliamentary elections. Photo by Karwan Salihi


Nine Turkmen political parties united under one alliance to run a unified bloc for Iraq’s October 2021 parliamentary elections yet they have not unanimously determined its leadership.

The Turkmen parties in Kirkuk aim at occupying four seats of the 329 seats of Iraqi parliament as currently they hold only three seats. The total number of Turkmen seats in Parliament is 8 out of 329, where the Iraqi Turkmen Front ITF, led by Arshad al-Salehi, holds 3 seats, and the Turkmen Bloc has 5 seats.

The agreement was signed on Wednesday to unite the Turkmen parties in the oil rich province of Kirkuk under “Front of Turkmen Parties,” bloc to get four out of 12 seats of the province.

Ali Qaryaghdi, secretary general of the executive committee of Turkmen Elli (Front), said nine Islamic, nationalist and secular Turkmen parties signed the agreement and Riyaz Sari Kahia, leader of Turkmen Elli will lead the parliamentary bloc.

“all the political parties will take part in public campaign and trips and will share the results in terms of administrative positions won post elections,” he added.

“all the political parties will take part in public campaign and trips and will share the results in terms of administrative positions won post elections,” he added.

The coalition is currently for Kirkuk province and discussions ongoing for other provinces.

Disagreements over leading the bloc is arising. KirkukNow has got a copy of the agreement. Iraqi Turkmen Front led by Arshad al-Salihi has attended the meeting. Their representative Hisham Bayraqdar has signed the agreement but the pro-ITF organizations and supporters of the party protested the agreement on Thursday in front of their party’s Kirkuk office and demanded that ITF and its leader Arshad Salihi to lead the alliance.

The oil rich city of Kirkuk, located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, is an ethnically mixed province of Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and Turkmen. It has long been at the center of disputes between Baghdad and the autonomous Erbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

Turkmen are considered the third largest ethnic group in Iraq after Arabs and Kurds, residing almost exclusively in the northern towns and villages stretching from Tal Afar through Mosul, Erbil, Altun Kopri, Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, Kifri and Khanaqin. They are half Sunnis and half Shiite.

“Turkmen community used to blame us for disunity making the Turkemn home devastated so we decided unanimously run for upcoming elections,” Qaryaghdi said. “We will do our best to win four seats,” he added. 

The parties joined the unified list are ITF, Turkmen Elli, Wafa Turkmen Party, Qarar Turkmen party, Turkmen Irada (Will) party, Turkmen Haq (Right) party, Turkmen Nationalist Movement, Turkmen Islamic Union and Turkmen Adala (Justice) party.

The new Iraqi electoral law ratified last November, a key demand of demonstrators in 2019, changes each of the country’s 18 provinces into several electoral districts in order to prevent parties from running on unified lists, which has in the past helped them easily take all the seats in a specific province. Instead, the seats would go to whoever gets the most votes in the electoral districts.

The 329-member house of representatives was elected in May 2018. The vote is held every four years, but the protesters have been demanding early elections. Kirkuk has been split into three electoral districts under the electoral law.

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