Saturday, 21 February 2009, 12:43 GMT
Christians and Turkmen to hold 10 seats in parliament

A woman member raises her hand while voting on amendment on election law giving women more seats. GLOBE PHOTO/Safin Hamed

The Kurdish Globe

Number of seats may change when disputed areas reincorporated with the Region.

Christians and Turkmen in Kurdistan parliament will hold five seats each according to recent amendments inserted to the regional election law. The dedicated quotas described as fair by the two minorities within the current Kurdistan Region but they may ask for more seats when disputed areas return to the region.

Parliamentary election in Kurdistan region is scheduled on the coming May 19. Provincial elections are expected at the end of the year.

Christian ethnic groups emphasize on protecting their unity and on building autonomous areas through their parliamentary voices.

"For the current time, we are satisfied? We'd like to appreciate those parties supported these quotas we wished for," stated Galawej Shaba, an Assyrian member of the Kurdistan Parliament. She pointed to the general population census expected to be held in Iraq in the coming October noting, "after that the exact quotas will be known as they will be set according to the population rate."

Kurdistan Christians with all their ethnic sects of Assyrians, Chaleans and Siryans maintained five seats in the first and the second parliamentary rounds since 1992. Romeo Hakari, General Secretor of the Democratic Bait al-Nahrain party, explained that their five seats for the coming and for the future elections have now been officially assigned within a legal frame work.

As the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Siryans people are settling scattered in different places in Iraq-not settled in a specific place, they must seek their rights in two fronts: with the Kurdistan Region Government and with the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad.

"We have attempted to introduce ourselves as both Iraqi and Kurdistani people. One issue we have always focused on is that achieving our rights within Kurdistan Region can affect positively on acquiring our rights in Iraqi level," Hakari who is a current member of Kurdistan parliament told the Globe.

On their rights, Hakari noted that they want the Kurdistan constitution, which has yet to be approved, to keep the Christian sects of Assyrians, Chaleans and Siryans as one people. More importantly, they demand self-ruling authority in mostly populated areas such as Telkif, Alqush, Bartala, Qaraqush, as he said.

"The five members who will represent our people should take these two demands in regard and sufficiently defend them," he added.

The Turkmen parties in Kurdistan Region are content with a share of five seats but those in Kirkuk especially the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) want bigger portion.

"For now as the disputed areas especially have not yet returned to Kurdistan Region, most of the Turkmen parties see the quota of five seats dedicated to the Turkmen people as a positive step in the region," said Karkhi Alti Barmakh, a Turkmen parliament member.

The quota system allows the Turkmen people, the same as the Christians, to directly vote for their representatives to defend their rights in the future, said Barmakh and added the race this time is between the Turkmen parties to win dedicated seats.

"Since Turkmen in Kurdistan Region make the second biggest nation, the dedicated five seats "is a portion insufficient and too little comparing to the presence of the Turkmen in the Northern Region," said Zhala Naftchi, an ITF leader in Kirkuk. "At least one third of the parliament seats should be for the Turkmen."

Naftchi also called for establishing councils or second-rate parliaments for each ethnic communities in the region in coordination with the Regional Parliament. "Setting only five seats for the Turkmen means that the Regional Government there recognizes the Turkmen people as a minority," she added.

In reply to Turkmen leaders in Kurdistan who have expressed their content for the five seats, the ITF leader described their opinion as "personal views" by some leaders, not by all Turkmen people in the region.

On whether the ITF will take part in the coming Kurdistan parliamentary and local elections, Naftchi explained that such an issue is possible but their Turkmen Council in Kirkuk is still studying the issue and has not yet decided.