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Party rivalries are driving Kurds to lose in Baghdad: MPs

Kurds are losing out on many critical governmental positions in Baghdad due to internal bickering between the various parties, several parliamentarians in Baghdad have told Rudaw.

Rivalry and disunity among the Kurdish front in Baghdad “has resulted in ignoring and leaving Kurdish shares in Iraqi governmental positions unfilled,” Muthana Amin, Kurdish MP in the Iraqi parliament told Rudaw Radio on Tuesday.

Amin notes that the governmental positions that were once filled by the Kurds are now “either empty or replaced with Shiites or Sunni.”

“The Iraqi Army’s Chief of Staff used to be a Kurd, but the new Iraqi government filled this position with an Arab commander, which is a setback for Kurds,” Amin said of the position held by Kurds from 2003 until 2015, when Babakir Zebari resigned from the post.

Iraq’s post-2003 order was organized along the lines of sectarian politics, which meant that ministries and other positions of state, including the most senior jobs of prime minister, president, and parliamentary speaker, were divided along ethnic and sectarian lines among Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

With Prime Minister Kashimi’s final cabinet nominations announced last week, Kurdish parties secured their preferred picks for the coveted ministries of finance and justice.

However, the Iraqi government named Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, the former deputy head to the chief of staff for the Iraqi Army, as the new chief of staff on Sunday, replacing Othman al-Ghanimi who was appointed as the new interior minister in Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s cabinet.

Last month, Nasir Harki, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) MP in the Iraqi parliament, urged the Kurdistan Region to mount pressure on Baghdad to appoint a Kurd as chief of staff.

Rivalry between the KDP and the Kurdistan Region’s second largest party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party (PUK) has been blamed for Kurdish parties’ failure to win Iraqi governmental positions, which after 2003 have traditionally been allotted to Kurds by default.

Bashar Kiky, deputy head of the KDP bloc in the Iraqi parliament told Rudaw English on Tuesday that the Kurdish political parties are too concerned with pursuing ministerial positions, and are ignoring other governmental positions that Kurds have traditionally been apportioned in the Baghdad government.

“So far, the Kurdish political parties have only fought for the ministerial seats, and they have ignored the other governmental positions that come with great benefits for the Kurds in Baghdad,” Kiky said. “It is very important for the Kurds to be united in Baghdad for the sake of the Kurdistan Region’s people, and in order to secure these positions and avoid losing them.”

PUK MP Rebwar Taha rejects that notion.

“There is a slight delay in filling the positions in Iraqi government, which are the share of Kurds, but the PUK and KDP have already proposed a list of the positions that Kurds demand in Kadhimi’s cabinet,” Taha told Rudaw English on Tuesday.

“The delay in appointing Kurdish candidates for the governmental positions that are reserved for Kurds is not the fault of PUK or the KDP. The removal of the Kurds from their governmental positions is also not the fault of the KDP or PUK,” Taha said.

Kiky believes that both the KDP and PUK should be open to offering their share of seats to other Kurdish political parties.

The KDP and PUK have shared power in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since the 90s, with their own separate but coexisting zones of influence. The two parties laid the foundations of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and together, in post-2003 talks for the Iraqi constitution, were able to present a united Kurdish front in Baghdad that successfully secured constitutionally-enshrined autonomy for the Kurdish region.

The two parties, alongside the Change Movement (Gorran), formed a new KRG cabinet in 2019. The stability of the KRG depends heavily on good relations between the parties, as well as the shares of Kurds in Iraqi governmental positions.

The relations between PUK and KDP deteriorate occasionally, and tensions rise from time to time between the two political parties.

Taha revealed that both Kurdish political parties attempted to bring back some of the positions under the control of Kurds in the era of former Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, but due to his resignation after only a year, the process did not survive.

“The removal of Kurds from their governmental positions goes back to Haider al-Abadi era, when he started a chauvinist campaign to remove as many Kurds as possible from their positions in Baghdad,” Taha added.

Appointed as Iraqi Prime Minister after Nuri al-Maliki in 2014, Abadi labored through four turbulent years in office, presiding over the war with the Islamic State (ISIS).

Continuing the policy of his predecessor, Abadi deprived the Kurdistan Region of its budget share in a dispute over independent oil sales.

After the Kurdistan independence referendum of September 2017, Abadi imposed an embargo on the Region’s airports and deployed federal troops to seize Kirkuk and other disputed territories from the Peshmerga.

His ruthless approach caused Erbil-Baghdad relations to sink to their lowest ebb in years.

This was the case until early 2019, as under the former Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi, KRG was granted a 12.6 percent share of the 2019 federal budget. This was conditional on the KRG delivering a quota of 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil to Iraq’s state oil marketing company (SOMO).

However, KRG did not send a drop of oil, and that pushed Abdul-Mahdi to call on the finance ministry on April 16 to halt budget transfers to the KRG and to take back all transfers made since January 1, 2020.

Hopes are high with Kadhimi, as Kurds are looking to garner more interest from Baghdad and resume the flow of the KRG’s budget share from the federal government, as well as more governmental positions granted to the Kurdish political parties. Source