ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An ongoing rift between leading factions in the local legislature of the disputed Iraqi province of Kirkuk caused a key session to be delayed indefinitely, yet again, when the body failed to achieve quorum on Tuesday.
“We wanted to hold a session on several issues regarding Kirkuk Province but this failed because many council members were not present,” said Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) member Tahsin Kahiya during a press conference later that day.
The council was expected to discuss and, possibly, elect a new governor. The position is currently occupied by a Baghdad-appointed bureaucrat that has held the office since late 2017 following the ouster of Kurdish governor Nejmaldin Karim.
The oil-rich and ethnically diverse province has been at the heart of major disagreements between Iraq's two leading Kurdish parties over the past few years, especially after Iraqi forces and Shia militias attacked and took over Kirkuk and other disputed territories on Oct. 16, 2017, in response to the Kurdistan Region's historic independence referendum.
A coalition between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which now holds 26 seats in the 41-seat provincial legislature, appointed Karim as Kirkuk's governor in 2011. After the events of October 2017, however, he was forced to leave the city and his post.
Along with Karim, many members of the KPC, including its head, fled for the Kurdistan Region. Many refuse to return to the province until the situation there is returned to pre-2017 conditions which would include an end to what many of them call the current military rule by Iraqi forces and militias.
A political source familiar with council deliberations has previously told Kurdistan 24 that the main sticking points between the two Kurdish parties were the candidates to be considered for the governor position and venue of the meeting.
Kirkuk is claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq. The population is made up of Turkmen, Arabs, Christians, and a Kurdish majority.
The future of the province was constitutionally mandated to be determined through a referendum as outlined in Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which stipulated that the vote was to be held before the end of December 2007. More than a decade after the deadline, the article remains wholly unimplemented.
Increasingly, Kurdish residents and parties in Kirkuk are calling for unity in the upcoming provincial elections as a means to secure top local posts. The last local election in the province took place in 2005. This has been primarily caused by the inability of local officials from different ethnicities to agree on a mechanism for holding the local poll.
Editing by John J. Catherine