Kurdish MPs Push for Census before Next Provincial Election

28/08/2012 RUDAD By NAWZAD MAHMOUD – SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — During the previous Iraqi election, the number of the parliamentary seats for each province was based on their number of food ration cards.

Dr. Mahmoud Osman, a parliamentarian from the Kurdistan Alliance in Iraqi parliament, warns Kurdish leaders to avoid accepting the same criteria for the upcoming provincial election. Osman says this method “will bring the 2010 scenario back, but on a larger scale.”

“If the number of representation seats is based on food ration cards, the Kurds will lose even more votes this time,” Osman explains. “This is because Kurds, unlike the Iraqi population in the south and middle of Iraq, do not register their children in the ration system.”

According to Osman, Kurds have to push for a census to be carried out in Iraq which is the only way to determine the number of seats each province should have in parliament. If it is not possible to have a census, then the number of the seats should be based on data and information from the Ministry of Planning. In the March 2010 Iraqi election, the electoral system accounted for the Kurds losing 13 parliamentary seats. While in southern Iraqi cities only 35,000 votes were needed to secure a parliamentary seat, in Kurdistan cities such as Sulaimani, 47,000 votes were required.

Sirwan Ahmed, a parliamentarian also from the Kurdistan Alliance, is certain that the Arabs will not support any effort to carry out a census, and that the main reason is Kirkuk city. “However, I believe the Kurdistan Alliance needs to meet and insist that a census take place before the election,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed, who is from Kirkuk, said that only the Kurds desire a census in Iraq. Referring to the 1997 census under Saddam Hussein, Ahmed said, “Now, and then, the Kurds have been the majority in Kirkuk. All the parties know this; that is why they oppose a census.” In the 1997 census, Kurds made up 49 percent of the Kirkuk population, with Turkmen less than 12 percent. “This number came after years and years of Arabization of the city,” Ahmed said, pointing out that even then Kurds were the majority. He added, “Now, a number of Kurdish families have returned to Kirkuk city. However, it is very important that this time, unlike last time, we stick together in Kirkuk and avoid losing two seats like in the 2010 election.”

In 2010, the population of Kurdish cities had decreased, according to the number of ration cards, but the population of Arab cities in the south of Iraq increased.

According to Farhad Atroshi, an Iraqi parliamentarian from the Kurdistan Alliance, this was because “Kurdistan people do not value food ration cards, while fraudulent ration cards exist on a large scale in the middle and south of Iraq.”

Some measures indicated that the population in certain Iraqi provinces had risen by 40 percent, while marking growth in Kurdistan cities at 0 percent. The number of seats representing Kurdistan provinces, and those representing the south and middle of Iraq, was adjusted accordingly.  Nuri al-Maliki, the current Iraqi prime minister, signed an agreement with the Kurds in 2010. Conducting a census was to follow the agreement within a year, but this never materialized. “Maliki does not want to carry out the census,” Atrushi said. “Because, as we all know, 85 percent of the population in Khanaqin, 50 percent of Kirkuk inhabitants and 75 percent of Shangal residents are Kurdish. Therefore, if a census is carried out, Maliki will lose control of the disputed areas.”

He added, “The technical aspects of the census have been completed and prepared; now it only awaits a political decision. But false claims have been made that the technical aspects of the census have not been completed.”

Osman, who is also a member of the Regional Development Committee in Iraqi Parliament, denies claims that Kurdish MPs have been ignoring the census. “We have filed a complaint against the delay of the census in the Iraqi supreme court. We filed a complaint against the Maliki cabinet. The court replied that it agrees with our concern, but did not take any further action,” he said.

Osman added, “The Shia Arabs want to continue using the ration cards as a base for population numbers, and the Sunni Arabs get agitated when they hear the word ‘census.’” He believes that Kurds do not value ration cards as the Shia and Sunni do and that this will mean the loss of 15 seats in parliament if the ration cards are used as criteria in determining constituencies. “The least we can do is make sure that there is only one electoral circle for all Iraq [for the next election],” Osman warned. Bayan Ahmed, director of ration cards in Sulaimani, says that people in Kurdistan now pay more attention to ration card registration. “In the first six months of this year, 30,000 toddlers were registered in the ration system,” she says, adding that people now register their newborns. According to the ration cards, Ahmed told Rudaw, the population of Sulaimani city is now 1.73 million.