Kurdistan’s Islamists Contemplate Alliance for Upcoming Election

19/10/2012 RUDAW By HEVIDAR AHMED – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan’s Islamists are preparing a possible front for the next election. With a view on the provincial elections in particular, they believe they will surprise the public with the number of votes they win in Sulaimani province.

The Kurdistan parliamentary election and provincial elections are scheduled to take place in July 2013.

Samir Salim, a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) political bureau, told Rudaw ,“The KIU believes it is the best option. If the elections take place on a closed list, not a semi-open list system, then the best option is to form a broad Islamist alliance made up of KIU, Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK), and all the other Islamist personalities and groups. This is the current thought in the KIU.” Komal has also been talking about the formation of an Islamist alliance. They addressed this topic at their last convention. Bilal Sleman, a member of the Komal’s leadership council, told Rudaw, “The formation of an Islamist alliance for the next elections was Komal’s idea and initiative. We decided on this at our convention.”

He added, “Komal and the KIU have agreed on a number of points, one of which is the formation of a joint list in the next election.”

However, Anwar Anabi, an IMK political bureau member, told Rudaw, “This project to form an alliance between the three major Islamic parties was proposed by the IMK.” He added, “When we proposed the idea, a committee at the political bureau level was formed by all three parties, but then some tension came between us and Komal. So the work of the committee was delayed. But the committee has been working with the KIU. We have also decided to have our political bureau meet soon to discuss the formation of an alliance.” Anabi’s words come at a time when the KIU says there is no need to bring the party into an alliance, because it does not consider itself an opposition party. The IMK is a partner of the current Kurdistan government. In the July 2009 elections, Kurdistan’s Islamist parties managed to win only 12 parliamentary seats. KIU won six seats, Komal won four and the IMK won two. However, the Islamist parties claim they will win a large number of votes in the upcoming elections, particularly in Sulaimani province.

Salim believes passing the elections law will affect the components of the proposed Islamist alliance. “If the next election is carried out in an open list system, then forming alliance will not produce any benefits,” he said. “If so, we may think about forming a post-election coalition.”

He added, “In the last election in Iraq, the KIU won 250,000 votes, Komal won 150,000 and the IMK won 40,000 votes. In the next elections, the Islamists will win well over 500,000 votes,” Salim predicted.

He also said that the Islamist alliance would be the swing alliance in the upcoming elections, and any party who wants to form the next government would have to get the alliance on their side.

Abdulstar Majeed, a member of the Komal’s political bureau, said, “According to our surveys and local reports, our supporters have increased.” Moreover, Anabi said, “We have grown pretty well. If the Islamists form one list, we will surprise the public and win over 30 percent of the votes in Sulaimani province.” However, Change Movement (Gorran) activist Sarkawti Kooba, who directs the party’s Sulaimani office, denies the claims made by the Islamist parties. He told Rudaw, “I do not see the growth of the Islamist parties over the secular parties.”

Kooba added, “The Islamists can never gather in one group. They have many differences and to me it is impossible for them to form a unified front.”

Gorran won 25 seats in the last parliamentary election. Salim believes Gorran’s recent meeting with the ruling parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), will impact its votes.

But Kooba does not think the meetings will decrease his party’s votes. He said, “The ruling parties are not our enemies. Therefore, meeting with the ruling parties will not leave any negative impact on the number of our votes. Our supporters want the problems to be solved via dialogue, therefore a thousand meetings is better than tension.” Regarding the improvement of the relations between Gorran and the PUK, Salim said, “If the current political situation ends with the formation of a secular alliance, then we will benefit from that.” He added, “When a new alliance is formed it is, of course, aimed at eliminating the risk of votes going to other parties. Therefore, the PUK and Gorran have united under one alliance because neither one of them can stand against their opponent alone.”

Salim believes that one of the fears that motivated the PUK and Gorran to get closer is the improvement of relations between the KDP and Islamist parties. “If the Islamist parties and KDP votes are combined, that would be a large number of votes. The PUK and Gorran will not be able to win as many votes as the Islamists and KDP can win,” he said. Kooba said, “We will not unite with the PUK, but a political alliance is an option if it benefits the people. Forming a post-election alliance is another option. Therefore, we have no fear of the Islamists.”