PUK pushes for Kirkuk Governor position

The flag of the Kurdistan Region was removed from the hand of statue of the Peshmerga at the entrance to Kirkuk, after the events of October 16th 2017, and was replaced with the Iraqi flag by the Iraqi forces. Kirkuk Now

By Layla Ahmed in Kirkuk

One of the leading Kurdish parties puts its eyes on the positions of Kirkuk governor once it was occupying from 2005 up to 2017 as a precondition to take part in negotiations about the new cabinet.

A senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK who won three seats out of the 12 seats of Kirkuk province in the Iraqi parliament told KirkukNow the PUK is not ready to participate in any "talks" to form the new Iraqi government unless the post of Kirkuk governor is granted.

Hassiba Abdullah, a member of the leadership council of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Kirkuk, told KirkukNow "We have explicitly declared that we are not ready to participate in any talks on forming the Iraqi government unless the situation in Kirkuk is normalized."

About what normalization of the situation means for the PUK, Hasiba said, "The Kurds must get their dues, which is to take the position of governor… Kirkuk is administered in the last four years by an acting governor who was illegally imposed on Kirkuk and it must be changed and this position to be given to the Kurds, specifically to PUK."

 Rakan Saeed al-Jibouri, deputy governor then, had occupied the position of acting governor of Kirkuk in October 2017, by a decision of former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, instead of Najm al-Din Karim, who was dismissed from his position in September of the same year by a decision of the Iraqi parliament.

Changing the governor solves many problems in Kirkuk

"Changing the governor solves many problems in Kirkuk, including the problem of abuse of state properties, services, the problem of the food stuff company and the issue of Arabs settlers returning to the province," Hassiba said.

"We made many sacrifices for the sake of Kirkuk, and this position is our right. We cannot deal with the current governor and grant him legitimacy," she said.

Back in 2018, the Turkmens and Arabs each have got each three seats of the 12 parliamentary seats of Kirkuk and the rest six has gone to the PUK, one of the key Kurdish parties and stakeholder of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

In October 10th general elections, Turkmens have won two seats in the second constituency of Kirkuk and Arabs have won the three seats of the third district and a seat in the Kurd-predominant first constituency.

Kurdish political parties have won four out of five seats f the first constituency and two seats of the second.

The PUK has won three seats, and two seats were gone to the Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP which boycotted 2018 elections. The New generation, Naway New which claims to be an opposition party, has earned a seat for the first time in Kirkuk.

The northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, is an ethnically mixed province for 1.6 million Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and Turkmen. It has long been at the center of disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil.

The headquarters of the PUK in Kirkuk. Photo: PUK media

These statements come at a time when the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan dealt during the past four years in several stations with Rakan Saeed and met with him as the governor of Kirkuk.

Linking the position of the governor of Kirkuk to the issue of the formation of the Iraqi government by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan comes at a time when that party lost half of its previous seats in the parliamentary elections that took place on October 10, and also coincides with the desire of KDP to compete with the Patriotic Union for the position of governor.

"If the governor is changed and someone is legally in position, then he will have power over the security services, the military commanders, and stability will return to Kirkuk," Hassiba said.

Since October 28th, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have launched four attacks targeting civilians and Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk, killing eight people, four of them civilians.

The PUK, along with the change of the governor, is looking forward to the return of the Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk where they were forced to withdraw in October 2017 after the independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region, a matter strongly opposed by Arab and Turkmen communities and political parties

"Assuming the position of governor is a prerequisite for us to participate in the talks to form the Iraqi government," Hasiba concluded although currently there are no official negotiations about putting the new cabinet into office.

Currently, Iraqi army, local and federal police, Brigade 61 of Special Forces along with Shiite paramilitary of Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, are under Kirkuk joint operations’ command, an umbrella for the security forces running the security of Kirkuk province. 

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