Kurds Object to Iraqi Army in Diyala; Ninevah Seeks to Postpone Elections

The Ninevah Provincial Council has voted to delay provincial elections, scheduled for January 31. The council does not actually have the authority to delay the elections, which have been set by the federal parliament. The move suggests severe Kurdish-Arab tensions in the province. Since Sunni Arabs, the majority in Ninevah and Mosul, boycotted the 2005 provincial elections, Ninevah’s governing council is disproportionately Kurdish. It is likely that many of these representatives will be swept from power on Jan. 31, and that Sunni Arabs will take over, including the governorship. That development would heavily interfere with Kurdistan nationalists’ hopes to incorporate at least part of Ninevah into the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Anxiety that the state security forces might intervene in the provincial elections is widespread. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq called on Iraqi security forces not to interfere with the voting. There have been rumors that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki may attempt to use the levers of state to promote his Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa). Al-Maliki is allied with ISCI in parliament and on the cabinet, but in the elections, Da’wa and ISCI are rivals.

Likewise, Al-Hayat writing in Arabic suggests that the arrest of 38 officials from the Interior and Defense ministries was tied to the electoral ambitions of Interior Minister Jawad Bulani, who founded his own party and made his brother the secretary-general. Al-Maliki is said to have been disturbed at the idea of a cabinet minister engaging in electoral politics. Those arrested were accused of belonging to the al-Awdah or “Return” party, a reformulation of the banned Baath Party. These low-level officials, it was admitted on Thursday, could not actually have made a coup.

The USG Open Source Center translates an article on Kurdish concerns over the upcoming provincial elections in Diyala Province. Kurds in Diyala say that they are concerned that the Iraqi Army, which was sent into the province by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, might intimidate Kurdish voters. The Iraqi Army traded fire in late summer with elements of the Kurdistan paramilitary, the Peshmerga, which have deployed to cities such as Khanaqin even though they are not part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Maliki is eager to regain such territory for the central government in Baghdad. Ironically, Kurds in Diyala see the Iraqi Army as Arab, while Arabs in Mosul see the Iraqi Army as Kurdish.

“Kurdish MP criticizes Iraqi army deployment in Diyala region
Kurdistani Nuwe
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Document Type: OSC Summary

Kurdish MP criticizes Iraqi army deployment in Diyala region

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) newspaper Kurdistani Nuwe reporter Baban Abd-al-Karim has said that the Kurdistan Alliance had announced its list of candidates for the Diyala Governorate Council in the forthcoming nationwide governorate elections due to be held on 31 January 2009.

In a report published on 14 December, Abd-al-Karim discussed the Kurdistan Alliance’s campaign under the slogan of “Peace, fraternity and development”, interviewed Arab and Turkoman supporters of the alliance as well Kurdish politicians who expressed concern about the impact of the presence of the Iraqi army in the area on voters.

The report quoted the head of the PUK Khanaqin branch as saying that preparation by PUK, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and other political parties in the Kurdistan Alliance List had been under way for some time to ensure that the list would gain a large percentage of the votes in the forthcoming provincial elections. The PUK official added that the alliance list aimed to secure Arab and Turkoman as well as Kurdish votes.

The newspaper quoted the chief of Lahib tribe in the Diyala region, Shaykh Yusuf Ali, as saying: “As one of the chiefs of Arab tribes in the Diyala region, I and my tribe reaffirm our support for the Kurdistan Alliance List.” He added: “We believe that Kurdistan Alliance List is the best and most solid list in the region and the success of the list will benefit us and other national groups.”

Other residents of Diyala, such as the chief of Al-Hayali tribe, Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad Hamudi; Turkoman figure in Khanaqin, Ali Oghlu; and religious figure Shaykh Ahmad Sumaydi’i were also reported to have expressed their support for the Kurdistan Alliance List.

Member of the Iraqi parliament for Khanaqin Pishtiwan Ahmad expressed concern about the impact of the presence of the Iraqi army in the region on the electoral process and was quoted as saying: “Most certainly, the governorate council elections will not be free of problems, particularly in a problematic governorate such as Diyala where a large contingent of the Iraqi armed forces has been deployed in the area under the guise of pursuing terrorists. However, in reality the forces are indirectly affiliated to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s party and they have created a lot of problems for us.”

Pishtiwan Ahmad is further quoted as saying that about 16,000 Kurds who lived in the Khanaqin area had not been listed in the electoral register for the forthcoming elections which would have direct bearing on the outcome of the elections. He urged the Higher Independent Electoral Commission to resolve that problem.

The head of the KDP branch in Khanaqin, Akbar Haydar, was quoted as having said that the continued presence of the Iraqi army in the region would have an adverse effect on the electoral process. He added that most of the voting centres had been put under the control of the armed forces and police forces composed of former Ba’thists, which could force citizens to refrain from exercising their democratic right.

(Description of Source: Al-Sulaymaniyah Kurdistani Nuwe in Kurdish — daily newspaper published by Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK))”