The election process is underway, the campaign is warm, and events will be heating up further
The election campaign for the fourth Kurdistan Parliament began on August 21, 2013. Within hours of the announcement, the KRG’s political parties started campaigning for their parties and lists with the exception of the PDK, which was the only party to officially postpone its election campaign (for five days). And while some campaigns have used uncompromising ‘peppery’ language and others have yet to really get underway, the important thing is that the process is democratic. Even though some political entities are essentially using their campaigns as propaganda to prove their political existence, all parties are promoting their lists and candidates and competing in a peaceful manner and in line with the democratic principles they espouse. There are religious men in the lists, women, young people, Christians, Yazidis, academic personalities, politicians and professionals. Nationalists and Kurdistani Turkman are participating with some groups and lists, while Kildans and Assyrians have lists of their own along with dozens of candidates competing for the 111 seats in the Kurdistan parliament. Islamist, Christian, and other religious and nationalist groups are also making their presence felt and voices heard. An obvious feature of the Kurdistan election process is the attacks and criticism launched by the Opposition, who has provoked angry reactions by targeting personal matters for their own political purposes. The members of the ruling coalition also intend to maintain the balanced competition and peaceful process, since they consider themselves powerful and influential. In fact, the process itself may turn out to be more influential that the Opposition’s badmouthing, since the freedom of speech they are exploiting has made it palpably clear to everyone that all parties in the election enjoy equal opportunities.
This time, the process seems both ‘warmer’ and more important than in former elections because of the ongoing developments in Kurdistan and Iraq. Internally, the administration and political systems along with the work of the Opposition has broadened in Southern Kurdistan, which may result in parties reconsidering their power and public position. This election could be crucial for testing the authorities’ belief in and commitment to democracy, and to handing over power, if, as some opposition parties claim, the elections usher in a change in the base and elements of the administration. Of course, the Opposition should not get ahead of itself and start judging reactions ahead of the elections—because what they are doing is insinuating to people that “if we didn’t get enough votes, it means the authorities has rigged the elections”. Needless to say, this psychology of loss and revenge is anything but constructive at this juncture.
This election is more crucial for some parties than others. How can the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which is focusing on extending its alliance and maintaining its balance with the PUK, retain the balance of power? How can PUK take back its votes from the Goran Movement, which split from them, especially when Goran are their main rival in Slemany province but is still linked to them organizationally? How they can split their discourse, methods and political and administrative work from that of the Goran Movement, which is the extension of the same method, political mentality and ideology? What will happen to political Islamists after the collapse of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and after they have been undermined by the alliance between Goran, the Islamic Union and the Islamic Group, and failed even after long negotiations to run in the election as a unified list? Especially if the balance of power and interests change after the results of the September 21, 2013 election. These are important aspects of the political balance of power during the run-up to the election, and will be the main question after the results are published. What is still more important is that some political parties are betting on the dissolution of the KDP-PUK alliance and on separation of these two great powers in Kurdistan. If these hopes do not come to fruition, how can they endure the tense, combative atmosphere in which attacks are launched on other parties?
The process is important, because the election is to be held on time with 37 lists competing. The main parties like the KDP and PUK are running in separate lists, and this time, the people of Kurdistan will vote for their representative more honestly. We should not forget that citizens are living in better conditions than in past years, which is why they may consider the parties’ agendas more carefully and decide with greater confidence. A new generation born after 1991 will be participating in this election for the first time. They need jobs, social development, education, tourism, internet and role models. Women are pursuing their social rights by means of legal and cultural awareness. It is true that history has a great role to play in the decisions taken by individual Kurds, but that does not mean that the programs and thinking of current and future horizons will not have an impact on a new generation whose eyes are wide open. Generally speaking, this election will be another decisive celebration of the balance of power and proof that the rights and wishes of Kurdish voters are now been catered for. The will and qualifications of the candidates is definitely more center stage than in previous elections.
That is why people’s participation in this election will be better able to determine the future of Kurdistan and the destiny of the people and groups that live there through the practice of the democratic right to vote. Citizens can also determine the value and type of the parliament to come through their vote, by choosing qualified people who can build a more active parliament. But we should remember that Kurdistan is not yet an independent state, which is why our voters need a calmer, brighter, independent Kurdistan. This matter will clearly play a major role in the voters’ decision come polling day. The important thing is that the process has started, the competition is warm, and events seem to be moving very much in the right direction.