Quota Seats & Kurdistan Election


The Iraqi Supreme Court decided to overturn the law of extending the Kurdistan Parliament's Term. Despite the decision, parties continue to dispute the quota seats issue. They view it as a significant hurdle for the Kurdistan Region. The Rudaw Research Center held a roundtable on June 8, 2023. The RRC invited the main parliamentary parties and community representatives to discuss the issue.

The initial Kurdish National Council, now known as Kurdistan Parliament elections were held on May 19, 1992. The parliament was composed of 105 seats. 100 of which were general seats. Five seats were reserved for the Christian community. In the 2nd election, the quota seats have risen to 11 which stayed the same until this moment. The quota seat issue has never been a primary concern in the parties' internal disputes as it is today. The international community and internal negotiations have consistently failed to find a solution. This was the case until the Iraqi Supreme Court definitively struck down the law to prolong the parliament's term. This ruling made elections necessary.

The process for the impending elections remains vague. It's uncertain whether the court will issue another decision on quota seats and election laws. It's also uncertain if the current election law will stand. As such, the quota seats issue in the Kurdistan Parliament remains a hot topic.

Minister of  Minorities Affairs in the KRG Aydin Marouf opened the discussion. Minister Aydin said that they had persistently asked political parties not to politicize the quota topic. They also urged them to hold elections on time.

Dr. Muna Youhana Head of the Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan Parliament mentioned a persistent misunderstanding about the final point and political participation in the region. She speculated that the forthcoming elections would likely be conducted under the existing law. This calls for a review of the "final concept". She pointed out the main issue is that some main parties are competing for the quota seats. This leaves them without their "real representatives" in parliament. She believes the solution lies in establishing separate voting booths for Christians which was used in the 1992 elections.

The Minister of Transportation and communication in the KRG Ano Jawhar agreed with Dr. Muna. Private voting for constituents could be a viable solution. This could potentially protect them from political complications. Minister Ano argued for allowing only Christians to vote for Christian representatives. He believes this step would ensure genuine representation in parliament.

Meanwhile, Shamon Shlemon, the Deputy Governor of Duhok, advised prudence. He warned against making the quota a focal point of political conflicts and issues and cautioned against descending into conflicts between powerful political parties.

Azad Akram Qarashi member of the Nation List, underlined the importance of a meeting. This meeting would involve the PUK and KDP and it would resolve the issue.

Conversely, MP Sara Dilshad from the Turkmen Development Party expressed opposition to segregating votes. She described Law No. 5 of 2015 as "important". She thinks Law No. 5 deserves more attention. She posed a question, "Why should we establish a special list or a special day for sects? We are the native people of this region. We will all serve the Kurdistan Region collectively." She also stated that the Turkmens in the Kurdistan Region have achieved more rights than in Baghdad because Iraq offers them no quota seats in its parliament. She urged for a permanent solution. This would prevent the sects' issue from becoming an excuse to delay elections again in the future.

MP Hemdad Sabah from Turkmen Front in the Kurdistan Parliament gave his opinion on the topic too. Sabah stated that the issue of quota seats has become a political tool for parties. He believes that many problems would be solved if the "rule of law" prevailed. Sabah elaborated on existing issues with law implementation in the Kurdistan Region. He emphasized the need for a compromise between the PUK and the KDP. He pointed out that the Federal Court's recent decision "threatens to weaken" the Kurdistan Region.

Keldo Ramzi, the Director General of Syriac Culture and Arts, shared his thoughts. Ramzi stressed that the sects should decide their representatives. He emphasized that this matter should be approached calmly, not heatedly. Ramzi suggested the possibility of candidates from other parties representing the minorities under one condition which is the competition has to be "true".

Dr. Bestoon Hamasalih of the Kurdistan Islamic Justice Group shared his diagnosis of the issue. Hamasalih identified the lack of direct communication between parties and political factions as the source of current problems. He reasserted his party's support for community independence. He deemed the creation of a private database and voting day for components as the best solution.

Hoger Chato who is an activist and expert on elections, identified two key issues. He believes the problem lies in the methods and mechanisms of components' participation in the political process. Chato also pointed out the manipulation of minorities in political disputes. He emphasized the need to adopt international principles to resolve this issue. He suggested segregating community voters as a possible solution.

Later, Yaseen Hamasalih addressed the issue saying, "As the Gorran Movement we have called for a dedicated database and record for communities." He revealed that the Election Commission can implement this option. He argued that parties must take responsibility and resolve problems through reconciliation. He called for political parties to meet at a high level to discuss this issue.

After a while, Hemn Eskandar head of the election agency for the Kurdistan Islamic Union Party stated that the final 11 seats should be reserved solely for minorities.

Saadi Ahmad Pira a member of the Political Bureau of the PUK, made an affirmation. He confirmed that factions' rights must be protected in the Kurdistan Region. However, he disputed Azad Akram's assertion that the Turkmen culture and language are under threat. He suggested that the issue may exist in Kirkuk, but not in the Kurdistan Region. Pira admitted to disagreements concerning the 11 seats. However, he connected it to the election method. He stated, "The PUK feels that we are being deceived through the backdoors", meaning through the quota seats. Pira expressed no objections to groups having their private lists, records, and voters.

Dr. Jafar Eminki, a member of the Political Bureau of the KDP answered Pira saying, "No one can deceive the PUK. You possess extensive experience in elections and politics." He underscored the need for a democratic resolution to the quota issue. He considered it necessary to reassess the mechanisms. He advocated letting components decide for themselves.

The United Nations representative attended the roundtable too. He stated that the UNAMI only provides political and technical advice. Political decisions are made by political parties, not the UN. He emphasized that the United Nations will continue offering advice to solve these issues.

Lastly, the guests expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the Rudaw Research Center for facilitating this roundtable. The participants said that the gathering offered a platform for open discussion on these contentious issues.

June - 2023
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