President Barzani: Iraqi provincial election law must not violate constitution | |
4 August 2008

“I would like to talk about my visit to Baghdad. We went to Baghdad to engage with the federal government authorities and other political parties and to talk about the recent events that have taken place in the Iraqi parliament. We wanted to be there to assess for ourselves what the problems are, where the future of Iraq is heading, what is the nature of the relationship between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, and to evaluate the status of our alliances.

After long discussions, it became clear to us that what happened on 22 July in the Iraqi parliament was a full-scale attack on the democratic process; against the constitution; against the people of the Kurdistan Region; and against the gains achieved through the constitution. There was an attempt to annul all these.

The law of the governorate council elections is a good law as a whole. But through the addition of an article to this law specific to Kirkuk and as demonstrated by the means it was carried out, it has become a law detrimental to the people of the Kurdistan Region and their rights. It is targeted against the people of the Kurdistan Region and democracy. Some have never been in favour of governorate council elections, probably fearing the loss of gains made as well as being shown clearly that they do not actually command as much popular support as claimed in their propaganda.

This law attempted to draw us into a confrontation over the issue of Kirkuk. They hoped for a law that no one would accept; and now we are being accused of being against the governorate council elections.

We have been clear all along that we support governorate council elections. Let’s hold elections tomorrow, including for Kirkuk. We told them that if they intended to create problems for us, then they could never succeed.

We put forward three options: if you decide to have elections in all governorates, let us have elections for Kirkuk too. Some people claim that the Kurds have brought half a million Kurds from Iran and Turkey into Kirkuk in order to change the demographic makeup of Kirkuk. In fact, we have not been able to return half of the displaced people from Kirkuk back to city; how could we have brought half a million people into Kirkuk. How can half a million people melt into the population? What kind of spurious argument is this?

There have also been claims made that the Kurds have been threatening and attacking the Arabs and Turkomans of Kirkuk. We are strongly against all kinds of violence and injustice, including those acts committed during the previous regime, which can never be compared to any acts that may have been committed recently. I am not saying that no violations have occurred in Kirkuk, violations may have been committed by some individuals or some officials but this is against our policy and we are ready to take any due action. We would take action not because we are told to, but because our principles and conscience would not accept the violation of anyone’s rights.

We are prepared to provide any guarantees before the Americans, the British, the UN, and other political parties; however, Kirkuk cannot be singled out and have specific mention in this election law. What about Mosul? Mosul is similar to Kirkuk with its population a mixture of Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans. Diyala is another example.

If it is still insisted that this has to be written into the law, we will go ahead with it. We will not give anyone the opportunity to accuse us of trying to impede the process. But this law would have to contain two or three points: this law should not in any way obstruct the implementation of Article 140 of the constitution; and the powers of the Kirkuk governorate, as stipulated in Law No 13, will not be reduced.

This full-scale attack took place with outside interference and outside agendas in play; it was not merely the work of some individuals. But we still have friends and gladly we still have allies in Arabs, Turkomans and others. At the same time, there are still people who think that the Anfal campaign and the chemical attacks did not kill enough Kurds.

We held several long meetings with the Kurdistan Alliance list and with the Kurdistan Islamic Union list. The Kurdistan Islamic Union list had the same position as ours; the Assyrian Democratic Movement list was also supportive of our position. Several other parties were also sympathetic to out position.

In addition to all this, we had almost daily meetings with the political bureaus of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. It is encouraging that we all were united as Kurds and Kurdistanis, which I think is the most important thing.

Our meetings with the central government had one more significant importance which enabled us to eliminate the obstacles that hinder our understandings and to debate the outstanding issues directly. We have decided to set up a committee to study the misunderstandings between us and the outstanding issues, emphasizing some basic points, such as abiding by the constitution and considering the Kurds as a real partner or rather a founding partner of the new Iraq. We do believe in the principle of consensus. This committee will soon be activated.

Many proposals were put forward, mostly drafted by the UN in cooperation with all parties. The parties would discuss, amend and redraft the proposals. Those behind the 22 July scheme were trying to do whatever was possible to annul and circumvent Article 140, reducing the powers of the of Kirkuk governorate council and even deny all the other Kurdish gains. If they had succeeded they would have denied all our achievements. As I have already pointed out, we have told them that there are three choices from which to choose. We showed flexibility toward the issue. Postponing elections in Kirkuk city was one of the most flexible positions we proposed among others. We reached a point when we felt we could offer no more, we indicated that we had gone far enough.

We nearly accepted the latest proposal submitted by the UN; however, I am not aware if the other parties have accepted it or offered suggested changes. If they abide by it, it would be good, but no more concessions will be made. The latest UN proposal, which we have accepted, stipulates that the administrative authorities in Kirkuk city should be distributed and we made no objection. We see Arabs and Turkomen as are our partners but we believe it is a serious error to insist on distributing all authorities equally, which is unacceptable because we cannot make concessions over election results. With regard to the proportion of current employees in government offices in the city of Kirkuk, Arabs occupy 57% of posts, Turkomans 23%, Christians between 1-2%, and the rest are occupied by Kurds. It is very clear that the posts are not fairly distributed.

We have no objection about redistributing the administrative posts but as for the governorate council or the legislature, this is different. We could discuss this after elections.

Our position was very clear. Unfortunately the positions of others were changeable; they used to change their minds two or three times a day after making telephone calls outside the meeting room and returning with new ideas.

I would like to make one more point. To reach any agreement or to prepare a new law for a vote in the parliament, it should not oppose Article 140. The other parties were against this point. With the discussions not progressing further, I felt it necessary for me to return to work. I told them that our position is clear. Any other solution that acts as an alternative to Article 140 is not acceptable. They insisted on treating Kirkuk differently than other places. They wanted to reduce the powers of the Kirkuk governorate, as granted to all governorates under Law No 13. But we rejected this point and we said that if any law included this proposal we would not abide by it.

The other parties proposed that the committee, which would be set up to implement this law, should be under the supervision and protection of the federal Government and to be financed by the federal government. We refused this and stated that it must be supervised, financed and protected jointly by the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to avoid any violations.

We left them with several choices. To be very clear, we are ready to hold elections in all governorates. If they want the elections in Kirkuk to be postponed, we have no objection except the governorate of Kirkuk must have the same powers as other governorates. We will provide any guarantees if necessary. The law should not go against Article 140 and the
provisions of Law No 13 must hold.

I would like to give a message to Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk. I want to say that you are our brothers; I do not want people who have foreign agendas to take advantage of you; let us try to reach a common understanding. We believe that there will be many benefits for you with the Kurds. We are all brothers and we have a long history of peaceful co-existence. We have no grudges against you, but we resent foreign agendas.

I would also like to state again and promise the Kurdish people, that we will do our utmost to deny any success to foreign agendas in Kirkuk”.