Iraq goes to the ballot boxes today, 10 October, in a parliamentary and presidential election. Around 24 million are expected to vote in the election, in which Turkey is interfering. It will be held in the shadow of Turkey’s ongoing operations against the Federal Region of Kurdistan and its threats against Sinjar (Shengal), as well as the continuing disputes between the Kurdish political parties.
MA interviewed journalist Aziz Köylüoğlu about the elections in Iraq and his expectations about the situation in the region.
Köylüoğlu points out that the elections have an added importance for the Federal Kurdistan Region, where there is competition between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Alliance set up by the Goran Movement, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Turkey’s attacks in the region have increased in the run-up to the elections, as a result of which many villages have had to be evacuated, Sinjar’s autonomy has been effected and it has even attacked the Sulaymaniya region, having a serious effect on the regional agenda.
Not just an Iraqi election
Köylüoğlu points out that Turkish president Erdoğan has met with Iraqi Sunni leaders, and that together with the KDP it has been involved in election preparations with Sunni Turcomans in its consulates in Erbil (Hewlêr) and Kirkuk. He says that if the KDP does well in the elections it will be interpreted as its policies in collaboration with Turkey being “supported by the people of the region”. This is one reason the KDP remains silent in the face of, and in some places even joins in with, Turkey’s attacks in the region. He says, “The Iraqi election is no longer simply the Iraqi election. They want to make it into a KDP approval referendum.”
“Iraq has a Shia prime minister, a Sunni leader of assembly and a Kurdish president.” Köylüoğlu says there are signs that the KDP have made a “secret agreement” with the Turcomans and that this is why they are turning a blind eye to the Turcomans arming themselves, in violation of the constitution.
The importance for Sinjar
He says that the Iraqi central government, Turkey and the KDP would like to remove Sinjar’s autonomous status. “The status of Sinjar will be determined to a certain extent in the elections. Those living in Sinjar could well cast their votes in favour of autonomy. If they do this they will have sent an important message to the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Administration. The people of Sinjar have been saying, ‘we will live autonomously’ for a year now. But there are those who live outside Sinjar, but whose votes count towards Sinjar’s votes. This could upset the balance of the votes.”
Köylüoğlu says that another angle to the elections is that Cemil Bayık, co-chair of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) has made a statement to the effect that KCK supports the Kurdistan Alliance: “This means that the KCK has become part of the Iraqi election. If the Kurdistan Alliance comes out well in the election it will indicate the support of the people for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).”
Conflicts may intensify
Köylüoğlu finished by making the following predictions: “It is a period in which the conflicts and clashes between Kurds may intensify still further, in particular considering it in the context of the KDP and the PUK. And considering it in the context of Iraq, I can foresee an outcome in which the Shias, the Sunnis and the Kurds each discriminate more in their own favour, which will give rise to further clashes and conflicts in the region. This is a highly risky election for Iraq. I foresee a period in which conflicts and clashes may intensify, the balance of power may be rocked and conflicts may break out between the forces.”