Iraqi military rule in disputed areas restricts Kurdish parties' elections campaign: Party Officials

Iraqi political parties, meanwhile, are able to campaign freely ahead of the parliamentary elections in cities across the Kurdistan Region.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi military authorities have restricted Kurdish parties from promoting their elections campaigns in the disputed areas outside of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) administration, Kurdish officials said on Sunday.

Mala Bakhtiar, the executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo, told Kurdistan 24 that the military rule imposed by Iraqi authorities in the disputed territories had affected his party’s elections campaign.

According to the PUK official, imposing a military rule is unconstitutional. “PUK candidates are not able to visit different locations freely to campaign for the elections,” he said.

“Although the Kurdish political parties are officially recognized, there are restraints on their activities during the elections campaign by the Iraqi security forces in the disputed areas. Their rights have been violated,” Bakhtiar noted.

Asked if the restraints would affect the PUK votes in the areas outside of the KRG’s administration, Bakhtiar stated, “When the candidates cannot freely campaign for themselves, it will definitely affect our votes.”

Iraqi political parties, meanwhile, can campaign for the parliamentary elections freely in cities across the Kurdistan Region, he noted.

Sharqi Mohammed, a candidate for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Nineveh Province, told Kurdistan 24 that Kurdish candidates and their supporters are afraid to campaign in public due to threats by the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias.

“Our slogans and billboards are removed by Hashd al-Shaabi fighters in Mosul and Nineveh Plains because they have the authority there,” Mohammed stated.

Rebwar Taha, a PUK candidate in Kirkuk, said the military rule which had been imposed on Kirkuk created campaigning obstacles for his party. He called for a joint Peshmerga and Iraqi forces military presence.

Taha, who is currently a parliament member in Baghdad, warned that if the violations against the Kurds continued, they would take a strong stand.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in the Kurdistan Region and launched his electoral bloc’s elections campaign in Sulaimani and Erbil provinces.

“The time of racial discrimination among the citizens of Iraq against the Kurds and others is over,” Abadi claimed, shortly after arriving in Sulaimani.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany