ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – While campaigning in the Kurdistan Region, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said that the era of racism against Kurds by successive Iraqi governments was a thing of the past and that the only way forward was unity between groups.
"The time of racial discrimination among the citizens of Iraq against the Kurds and others is over," said Abadi on Wednesday, shortly after arriving in Sulaimani, in a surprise campaigning trip to the region announced only that morning.
The prime minister, who arrived in Sulaimani after multiple campaign appearances in Mosul earlier that day, added that Iraq "will not rise up without the unity of Kurds and Arabs and the full spectrum of Iraqi society."
In his speech, Abadi also made the point several times that he had come to the region "to listen to you and your concerns,” though did not mention plans to address concerns voiced.
As proof of his claim that the era of racist anti-Kurdish policies of the era of Saddam Hussein and after was over, he spoke of the fact that his Nasr (Victory) alliance has put forth several candidates in the Kurdistan Region.
The list began electoral campaigns in Sulaimani on April 14. Nasr has a total of 25 candidates in the region; 10 in Sulaimani, nine in Erbil, and six in Duhok.
According to his press office, Abadi will also visit Erbil and Dohuk provinces as part of his current trip. It is the first Iraqi election in which Shia parties have nominated candidates in the provinces within the Kurdistan Region.
After past national elections, the support of the Kurdish bloc within the Baghdad parliament has been crucial to the new prime minister receiving a clear majority and fulfilling his mandate to form a government.
The ties between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq deteriorated considerably following the referendum on independence in the Kurdistan Region on Sep. 25.
Following the referendum, Abadi imposed punitive measures against the Kurdistan Region, including an international flight ban on the airports in Erbil and Sulaimani for over five months. He also ordered security forces to launch a military operation to take over disputed territories then controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
In the past month, relations have reportedly improved, and delegations representing Baghdad and Erbil have met on multiple occasions, mostly focusing on security or administrative matters.
The national election is scheduled for May 12. A total of 6,904 candidates representing multiple parties are competing to fill 329 parliamentary seats.