60 Christian candidates compete for 5 seats in Iraq’s parliament

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By Rudaw
People carry the Iraq and Kurdistan’s flags, as well as Assyrian ones during an Akitu parade on April 1, 2018. Photo: Vanessa Powell | Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Sixty Christian candidates are racing to secure five quota seats in the Iraqi parliament, with Duhok province considered to be the prime battleground — of the seven Christian lists, six are in the Kurdistan Region’s province.

“This time, the competition among the Christian candidates is warmer in Duhok, compared to the past elections,” Shams al-Din Georges, the head of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council (CSAPC), told Rudaw. “Thus, of the seven [Christian] political entities across Iraq, six of them have candidates in Duhok.”

Iraqi elections are scheduled to take place on May 12. Five seats are dedicated for the Christians as part of the minority quota system — one from Baghdad, one from Erbil, and individual seats spread across Duhok, Kirkuk and Mosul.

Following the collapse of the Baathist regime and the break out of sectarian conflicts in post-2003, the Kurdistan Region provinces, especially Duhok, became a safe haven for Iraq’s Christians. In addition to that, there are some 60 Christian villages and towns in Duhok.

It is estimated that Christians in Iraq make up over 3 percent of the population. According to the 1987 Iraqi census, 1.4 million Christians, including the Assyrian community, lived in Iraq, but many have since migrated to the West after years of persecution and economic hardship.

The CSAPC now holds two of the five seats in the parliament.

Georges’s list has 10 candidates this year, four of whom are in Duhok and Nineveh.

“We pay a particular attention to these places,” he said. “We cannot freely kick off elections campaigns in Mosul.”

Nael Saqil, a media officer for the Assyrian Democratic Movement, also explained competition among Christians is very strong in Duhok.

Saqil said the only Christian list that does not have a candidate in Duhok is the Babylon List, which is associated with the Shiite-led Hashd al-Shaabi, a paramilitary group that moved into many northern areas of the country during the ISIS conflict and the events of October 16.

“Christians under the Iraqi government authority are very much oppressed. We are trying to remove that threat,” Karolina Edward, a candidate of for CSAPC, told Rudaw. “My whole focus is on Christian voters of Duhok.”

There are 329 seats up for grabs in Iraq’s parliamentary elections on May 12. In addition to the five Christian seats, the minority quota system allocates one seat each for Yezidis in Nineveh, Mandaeans in Baghdad, Shabaks in Nineveh, and Fayli Kurds in Wasit.

Election campaigns in Iraq began on Saturday and on Sunday in the Kurdistan Region due to the Anfal observance day.