Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) International Relations Committee Member, Navdar Sînegir, talked to ANF about the recent Iraqi elections, why they were different from the previous ones, the interest they have for international powers and neighboring countries and the Iraqis’ expectations.

Sînegir, emphasizing that Iraq cannot be ruled like the old Iraq, stated that the role and function of the new government should make the election results meaningful.

Sînegir, responding to arguments saying that a well governed place lives no crisis, and if it does its consequences would not be so heavy, said: “Iraq has a geographical position and a country where many people and sects live together, yet it is a place which many want to intervene it. Which is why intervention from outside and inside and political calculations are to be expected”.

Sînegir said that the only way to overcome Iraq’s problems is to establish democracy on the basis of the Iraqi constitution. “If democracy develops, – he said – there will be no corruption, and justice, rights, law will develop, which in turn will eliminate many problems”.

How do you evaluate the Iraqi elections from the point of view of Kurdish Freedom Movement?

First of all, the presence of elections is important when we talk of democracy. In a country that is struggling with problems such as Iraq, it is a matter of curiosity to see who win the elections, which political movement. The elections on 12 May showed this very clearly. Iraq cannot be ruled like the old Iraq.

In particular, it looks difficult for one party and sectarian group to get into power. For this reason, the newly formed parliament is also important for the representation of all peoples, the integration of ethnic minorities and beliefs under the parliamentary framework, both at regional and national level. We consider it important that a large number of parties and alliances have contested the election. However, we think that it is worth to evaluate the low participation rate in general. We hope that the new government will play a role which will make the election results meaningful.

The democratization of Iraq is an important factor for the Kurds. This is primarily the responsibility of the regional Kurdish government. However, there are serious deficiencies in this sense. It is seen that the Kurds in Bashur (South) Kurdistan are obliged to develop a more democratic system and achieve unity among themselves.

What kind of changes have the elections promoted in Iraq so far?

The position of the Iraqi state and the way it has been up to now must be well understood and evaluated. As it is known, Saddam Hussein took over the administration through a coup. This government lasted exactly 23 years. During this time, Iraq was ruled by a dictatorship. Maybe he fed people, but he did not do a serious work on behalf of humanity. Especially for Kurds and Shias this was a rule of blood.

During Saddam Hussein’s rule, the Iraqi people were constantly at war. There was an 8-year war with Iran, followed by Kuwait occupation in 1991 for 7 months. All these wars grieved over the Iraqi people. Saddam maintained his dictatorship with war and oppressive means. This was the situation until the US intervention in 2003. All of the elections made during the Saddam era have been won by Saddam most of the time. The Baath won all of the elections held during the Saddam period, and it was unthinkable for a party other than the Baath to get some kind of result. In short, since the Umayyads, power in Iraq has always been monopolized by the Sunnis.

Sunnis never accepted other nations in the governance of Iraq

Despite the Shiite and Kurdish population in Iraq being numerous, the Sunnis have not recognized other peoples to have the opportunity to participate in the governance. On the contrary, they constantly tried to secure their power through repression and massacres. Yet, Shiites, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Ezidis, Shabaks are the people living in Iraq.

After the 2003 US intervention in Iraq, a new constitution is worked upon and new election. The Iraqi constitution is leaning predominantly towards democracy. However, the crisis in the country and political instability do not allow to actually turn the constitution into practice.

This was the fifth parliamentary election since the US intervention. All political parties and minority representatives in the country are included in the contest for the 329-seats Parliament.

According to the agreement achieved in the country, the President should be Kurd, the Prime Minister Shia and the parliament speaker Sunni. If stability is achieved in the country, the implementation of these roles is an important result in terms of the level of representation of the peoples and beliefs living in Iraq and for the democratization of Iraq.

What was the difference between the 12 May elections and the previous ones?

The difference is that the 12 May elections happened after the attacks by DAESH (ISIS). Due to the attacks carried out by DAESH in 2014, Iraq experienced a great shock and crisis. One of the reasons for these attacks was that the country had not been governed well. Particularly the policies carried out and implemented have actually fueled and deepened sectarian conflicts. DAESH emerged from this. This also led to the end of al-Maliki period and the transfer of power to Abadi. Indeed, the period of the fight against DAESH is the Abadi’s period. It is as a result of this struggle that elections were called in Iraq.

One of the obvious differences between this election and the previous ones is the large number of alliances and political parties. This is a novelty in itself. A total of 25 parties and 63 coalitions participated in the elections. Moqtada al-Sadr, who won in Iraq, forged an alliance with the Communists. Iranian-backed Shiite militia Hadi El Amiri came second, and Haidar al-Ibadi third.

Moqtada al-Sadr was prepared for these elections

Moqtada al-Sadr was prepared for these elections and got the support of Shia-Arab nationalism in particular. A few months before that, al-Sadr had a meeting with the prince of Saudi Arabia. This meeting also shows the support of the Arab League, which is a creation of the US. It is wrong to evaluate al-Sadr’s success as ordinary. It is necessary to see that this is a concept in terms of Iraq. These elections were not fought on a Shiites against Sunnis or Shiites against Sunnis and Kurds basis. It actually turned out to be a struggle among Shiites.

The elections clearly were of interest for Western powers and regional countries. There was a great interest in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and in the US and UK.

Too many objections to the election results were presented. The first electronic media election in Iraq was a matter of debate in itself. Apart from Sunnis, everyone, especially Shiites and Kurds, have got good results in areas where they are dominant. One of the most important issues affecting the results in these elections was the participation rate. It was quite low, 45.2%. And it is very low compared to previous elections. This must be one of the issues that need to be evaluated. None of the governments that came to power after the intervention in Iraq has responded to the expectations and demands of the people. The country has been a constant battleground. There’s been war in Iraq for 10 years, people are dying every day. Successive governments have not found solutions to economic and political crises. Maybe this is an important reason why the election participation rate is low.

Another issue that should be considered important was the very clear stance of people in Kurdistan: in Bashur, from now on, it won’t be just two parties that would have a role to play. Apart from this, if we analyse the number and characteristics of the parties participating in the elections, we’ll clearly see that the struggle will be among other actors others than KDP and PUK.

In these elections a total of 8 parties and political movements participated. This is a first in the history of Iraq and Bashur.

What is the approach of the Iraqi government to the Kurds of Bashur?

The Iraqi government has maintained dialogue and contact with the Kurds since the past. The occupying states of Turkey, Syria and Iran had a different policy towards Kurdistan. However, Kurds’ constitutional rights and the acceptance of the Kurds as a people living in their own territories have not developed according to the definition of rights law. All of the current achievements in Bashur have been won at a great price. The massacre in Halabja has never been forgotten. Hundreds of villages were burned and evacuated, thousands of people lost their life. With the intervention in Iraq, the federal structure of Bashur was accepted. However, the Iraqi central government is not ready to allow developments that can overcome this situation.

Kurdistan Regional Government has not played its role

With the DAESH attacks, there were enormous possibilities in Bashur. However, the uncertainty in the so-called “controversial” regions, as well as the fact that the Kurdish regional government could not secure the achievements of the process well, changed the course of things with the 25 September 2017 Referendum.

The regional government has not played its own role as a result of wrong steps. The Iraqi government accepts Bashur but it says: “Okay, I accept you, you have rights and laws, but up to where I say so” and again: “You will do everything with my knowledge and control”.

After the 25 September referendum, for example, Sulaymaniyah and Hewler airports were shut down, border and customs points were closed.

Are only external forces responsible for the crisis in Iraq? What is the role of the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government?

There are many reasons for the crisis in Iraq. However, obviously the responsibility of the crisis is of course of the ruler, hence the power.

There is no crisis in any well-managed place, and if there is, the results will not be so heavy.

Iraq has a geographical position and a country where many peoples and sects live together, yet it is a place which many want to intervene. Which is why intervention from outside and inside and political calculations are to be expected.

Crisis deepened because Iraq has been exposed to invasion

The Kurdish regional government has a big and prominent role in the chaos and crisis. The Kurdish region has actually been not governed for a long time. Parliament is not meeting, the government is not functioning. The parliament was seized.

Another important cause of this crisis and chaos in Iraq is that the administration has kept the country open to constant external intervention and threats. Turkey’s bases in Iraq and Bashur borders are an example of this.  Against similar circumstances, both the central government and the Kurdish regional government do not take a serious attitude. They leave the impression of an endorsement. This naturally disturbs the people living in Iraq. In an occupied country, invaders need to be removed in order for the problems to be resolved in a short time.

What are, for you, Iraq’s expectations after these elections? Are you expecting important changes?

Iraq is likely to have a large coalition after these elections. It is a matter of debate as to how the new government to be formed will follow or not the previous government policies. However, the first party, the al-Sadr movement, has an important mission in Iraq, especially in Najaf Shiism. It is said that it has a militia power of more than 20,000 people. In the previous period, we also know that the Sadrists repeatedly raided parliament against corruption.

It will be important to see the relation it will have with neighbouring countries, included Iran and Turkey. However, when we look at the foreign relations, we see that the representatives of the US and Iran, especially, want to have a saying in Iraq’s matters, as we have seen after the elections.

A great coalition to come out of the crisis

The Sunnis are among the most harmed groups in elections. It is necessary to see what the danger for Iraq will be if Sunnis are not sufficiently represented in parliament. This is a question that confuses everyone. As to Kurds, how they will be represented in the new government and parliament, remains to be seen, will it be like in the old parliament? Will they get the Presidency?

In short, Iraq is facing hard times. A strong parliamentary coalition is needed to overcome existing problems. It is difficult for al-Sadr to become prime minister because he was not a deputy candidate. However, he will play a role as an important decision-making mind in parliamentary work, as well as in the process of forming government. It is important to include all sections in the broad coalition. For the government to be established, 165 deputies are needed. This can only happen if a large coalition is established.

There is a situation in the region called the Third World War. The war is still being carried out in Iraq and Syria. US President Trump has shown Iran as a target since his election. Should the US intervention in Iran become reality, war and crisis will be deepening in Iraq and chaos will inevitably develop. In this case, both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish regional government face serious challenges.

Does the PKK have a solution for Iraq?

The PKK movement is struggling for all peoples living in the Middle East and wants to develop democracy struggle with these peoples.

Iraq is also an important state in the Middle East. We are in favor of the preservation of the Federal structure of Iraq. If you are careful; the most active fighting force against DAESH in Iraq, was the PKK.

The PKK has successfully and relentlessly struggled against the DAESH mercenaries in Shengal, in Kirkuk and Makhmur. In this struggle, the PKK defended not only the Kurds but all the peoples and beliefs living in Iraq.

The PKK specifically prevented the attacks and massacres against the Ezidis. The Iraqi constitution recognizes autonomy and autonomous right to minorities.

As a movement, our project is that all peoples can establish their own autonomous systems of minority and belief groups and defend themselves on legitimate grounds when they are attacked. That is to enable the people to live freely and democratically.

The PKK did not struggle to make material gains in this struggle. Ezidis are now saying this openly: “The PKK came with their backpacks, they left the same way. They only left their martyrs to us”. It is very important to understand this. In other words, they do not come for personal benefit, they say that they came for humanity and to protect the people.

Providing a formation within the scope of the Democratic Middle East Confederation project envisaged by Leader Apo (Abdullah Öcalan) for the Middle East countries and Iraq in general is crucial.

If this happens, the countries of the region will be stable, and security will be improved. All the other politics have been tried but the result has been chaos and crisis.

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