Members of the Kurdish Regional government are doubtful that their presence in Kirkuk will be reinforced by votes due to the absence of a Kurdish presence in the region. Others believe that due to the increase in Shiite influence in Kirkuk will lead to corruption. Head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s Kirkuk branch, Mohammed Othman said, “Kurds in Kirkuk means Peshmerga and the Kurdistan flag. These two things are absent and you have to make people vote for you.” Othman is due to resign soon, voluntarily, will be replaced by Rebwar Taha, the currect Kirkuk representative in Iraqi parliament. The Kurdistan Diplomatic Party will not be running for election in Kirkuk. Othman believes that the campaign will be incredibly uphill for Kurdish parties because of the lack of cohesion between them. Othman said, “Even if Kurds gain six seats it still means that Kurds have not lost.”

Ahmed Askari is a Kirkuk Provincial Council and PUK member that thinks the diversity of Kurdish parties will severely limit electoral possibilities for Kurds. Askari has said, “If Peshmerga don’t return — not just for election campaigns — but even Kurdish lists will not be allowed to assign observers to polling stations. It is impossible for Kurds to assign observers in Arab-populated areas, Daquq, Dubis, and Hawija,” and, “A place like Hawija — where biometrics have not been carried out and there are a large number of Kurds, but Kurds cannot campaign — is one of the issues in this election in Kirkuk.”

The Islamic based political party Komal and Gorran party alongside the Coalition for Democracy and Justice have formed an alliance for the regions in dispute. A former speaker in Kurdistan’s parliament, Yousef Mohammed, was elected as the groups lead. However, soon after coming into the position Mohammed resigned before getting replaced by CDJ leader Barham Salih. A member of Gorran told local media that, “Most of Kurdish voters in Kirkuk are supporters of PUK, therefore Salih is more fitting because he used to be deputy secretary of PUK.” Mohammed when asked clarified that, “We will do our campaign according to the rules of the commission and the constitution and we will not get permission from anyone.”

PDK official and Kirkuk council member Kamaran Mohammed says that patriotic feelings and support for Kurdistan are strong in Kirkuk and among the people there. He elaborated with, “But can anyone talk about these things for them? The dignity of Kurds has been hurt and it has to rise again. Why do Shiites hoist sectarian flags but Kurds cannot hoist their flag?” Adding, “Shiites have not gained votes in Kirkuk in any elections. If they gain a seat or more votes this time it means the election is full of corruption.”

Despite Kirkuk’s diversity, a strong Shiite presence has grown since the Hashd al-Shaabi took over the region last October. When this happened the Kurdish Peshmerga and security forces were forced out. Now there is a dwindling Kurdish presence and Iraq sees maintaining political majority control over the disputed territory as essential.

Featured Image Courtesy of Levi Clancy [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons