Shafaq News/ A political chess game is currently underway in the Kurdistan region of Iraq as the major political players outline their strategies for the forthcoming provincial council elections in contentious regions. While unity underpins the tactical approach of some, a sense of caution marks the strategy of others.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), championing a unified Kurdish front, has endorsed a strategy aimed at not re-opening old societal wounds. In contrast, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is exercising caution towards the idea of a unified list with certain political entities, especially in the historically turbulent region of Kirkuk.
In the governorate of Diyala, a united approach underpins the PUK's electoral strategy. Ibrahim Aziz, a leading figure in the PUK's Organizations Bureau in Khanaqin, Diyala, emphasized in a statement to Shafaq News Agency the PUK's inclination towards participating in the elections in a unified list, incorporating all of the Kurdish forces and parties. According to Aziz, this "unified stance aligns seamlessly with the current political climate, societal conditions, and electoral legislation in effect for the provincial council elections."
Aziz said that the PUK is gearing up 30 candidates in Diyala's elections, which will be the arena of eight to ten Kurdish parties vying for seats.
Meanwhile, the KDP, represented by Sherko Tawfiq, head of the party's Organizations Bureau in Diyala, illustrated a more open and flexible strategy. Speaking to Shafaq News, Tawfiq stated, "the KDP is receptive to forging alliances with all parties and forces during the elections, irrespective of their ethnicity or composition. Future negotiations and discussions, however, are necessary for the Kurds to commit to a unified list."
Tawfiq also announced the KDP's intention to launch a series of intensive negotiations with the Kurdish forces to forge an agreement for all parties involved, particularly the Kurdish population.
In Saladin, specifically in the contentious district of Tuz Khurmatu, a different narrative unfolds. Bakhtiar Hajran Mohammed, the head of the KDP local committee in Tuz Khurmatu, assured Shafaq News that the KDP would steer clear from allying with the controversial (October 16) group during the local elections in Saladin and Kirkuk.
The term "October 16" was coined by the KDP to label Kurdish political factions that had previously collaborated with the Iraqi government in October 2017. These factions had agreed to allow the federal security forces to gain control over the disputed areas of Kirkuk and others, a move that followed Kurdistan's referendum for independence from Iraq.
Mohammed clarified that the KDP harbors no disputes with the PUK, their primary issue lies with this "October 16" group. He confirmed that negotiations with Kurdish forces for potential electoral alliances continue, explicitly excluding the so-called "October traitors".
Former Member of the PUK's bloc in the region's parliament, Jamal Mohammed Shakur, attached importance to "Kurdish unity in local elections, particularly in Kirkuk." +
Shakur depicted the exclusion of the PUK from the Kurdish alliance as a matter of individualistic opinions that defy the general interest and potentially disperse the voices and positions of Kurdish forces.
"We aspire to steer clear of statements that divide the Kurdish rank and its history and to avoid returning to old wounds," Shakur added, describing the circumstances in Kirkuk and other disputed areas as "sensitive and intolerant of division," especially in Kirkuk which "requires solid Kurdish unity to reclaim rights."
Shakur warned of the dire consequences of Kurds participating in elections in independent lists.
Karwan Ali Yarwis, the rapporteur of the PUK bloc in the Iraqi parliament, echoed Shakur's sentiments. "Regaining the rights of the Kurds in Kirkuk requires participation in the elections with a unified list, and the same applies to disputed areas," he said.
"The event that ensued following the October 2017 referendum and the current administrative, political, and security situation in Kirkuk makes a unified and strong Kurdish alliance a must if we seek to reclaim the rights and return the governorate to its natural status."
" The Kurdish issue in Kirkuk not merely administrative, even though it is managed by proxy. Instead, it's a political issue with historical and national dimensions for the Kurds in the governorate."
"Kirkuk's situation differs from Diyala and other areas. In Diyala, one can secure a single seat or two in local elections and demand the position of deputy governor or council presidency, but Kirkuk requires recovering the Kurd's political and administrative entitlements."
Yarwis called for "keeping all internal political disputes and disagreements in the region away from the disputed territories to enhance the unity of the Kurdish front in facing current challenges."
In his turn, Mohammed Kamal, official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party - Kirkuk and its outskirts bureau, clarified that "the general direction is for Kurds to participate in elections with a unified list. However, time still allows for further negotiations and discussions among Kurdish forces."
Kamal labeled the issue of a unified Kurdish alliance in the provincial council elections as "yet to be resolved." He added that "it is premature to speak. Many aspects are in the process of tuning."