Iraq: election observers sent to Iraqi Kurdistan

PRESS RELEASE Göttingen/Arbil, 22^nd July 2009

Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan (25^th July 2009) Society for Threatened Peoples sends election observers to Iraqi Kurdistan

The Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) has sent a Christian Assyrian who has lived for many years in Germany as observer to the parliamentary and presidential elections this Saturday in the Autonomous Federal Republic of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Iraqi Kurdish section of the GfbV, which has an office in Arbil, is also sending at least ten observers belonging to the ethnic and religious minorities of the Assyrian Chaldean Arameans, Turkmens, Shabak and Yezidi. They will supervise the polls in the provinces of Arbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk. In the controversial areas lying outside Kurdistan with a Kurdish majority like the province Kirkuk and districts in the provinces of Nineveh and Diala there will be no elections.

Of the 4,382,000 inhabitants of Kurdistan 2,518,000 are eligible to vote, among them about 1,058,000 in the province of Sulaimaniya, about 892,000 in the province of Arbil and about 562,000 in the province of Dohuk.

The electoral law of Kurdistan, which was changed on 11.02.2009, provides for eleven of the 111 seats of the regional parliament to be reserved for non-Kurdish nationalities. Turkmens and Christian Assyrian Chaldean Arameans are entitled to five seats each. For the small Armenian group one seat is reserved. This means that these ethnic groups will with the guaranteed seats have more representatives in the regional parliament of Kurdistan than is reflected in their percentage in the total population of the three provinces. It seems that there are there 80,000 to 90,000 Assyrian Chaldean Arameans, about 100,000 Turkmens and about 2,500 Armenians. Members of the Kurdish religious community of the Yezidi are to be included in the lists for the Kurds as a whole.

Since the quota system has been set up according to ethnic and not religious criteria it has been criticised above all by the Yezidi. There has also been no provision made for other religious minorities like the Feili Kurds or the Ahl-e Haqq. The women’s quota in parliament has been set at 30 percent. The electoral law in Iraqi Kurdistan provides no restriction clause for entry to parliament. All candidates for election must be at least 25 years old.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) stated in Baghdad that 24 parties and coalitions would be putting forward candidates in the lists. The two present ruling Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK, are entering with a joint list. For the post of president there are four candidates besides the present holder, Masud Barzani.

For the eleven seats reserved for the Turkmens, Assyrian Chaldean Arameans and Armenians the following are competing: the “Turkmen List for Arbil”, the “Turkmen Reform List”, the “Democratic Turkmen Movement”, the “Independent Turkmen List” and the four lists of the Assyrian Chaldean Arameans: the“United Chaldean List”, the “Autonomous List of the Chaldean Aramean Assyrians”, the “Al Rafaidain List” and the “People’s Council of the Chaldean Aramean Assyrians”. For the one Armenian seat four independent politicians of this ethnic group are running.