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The Kurds Rule Baghdad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Kurds always dreamt of ruling their region, Kurdistan, and to be free after years of tyranny at the hands of the Saddam regime that deprived them of their own [traditional] clothing, language and culture. It was also their dream in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah to build a wall like the Great Wall of China to separate them from other parts of Arab Iraq.

In the parliamentary framework, the game has changed; the minority might become a key player and this is what happened in the 2005 elections. This is not because of the predominance of Kurdish votes (that represent no more than 20 per cent of Iraqi votes) but due to its somewhat united votes unlike the divided Shia majority, and the Sunnis who boycotted the elections in protest.

The Kurds never imagined that they would be the key player in the Iraqi political arena. And yet they are, for the second time, ready to play the role of kingmakers in Baghdad if they remain unified in their loyalty to the two main parties. But it seems that the Kurds, just like the Shia, do not consider their votes a free gift to be given to [a candidate] of a certain sect or race but rather to whoever promises them a better electoral program. Saddam is finished, his regime has been demolished, and he was executed and does not matter anymore. The things that matter are employment, standards of living, a hospital bed, and schools for the children; this is what a Kurd and a Shia want from whoever nominates himself to parliament.

The last elections took place at a difficult time internally and the votes were also expressive of a historic position. It is thanks to the Kurdish alliance with the Daawa Party that the balance tipped in Daawa’s favour and that Nouri al Maliki became prime minister. Once again, the Kurds today hold the trump card that can determine the lucky winner of the premiership whether it will be al Maliki or someone else. Basically, if the Kurdish votes are somewhat unified in favour of the two main parties, they will decide the fate of the government in Iraq for the next four years. Therefore, the Iraqi political equation would be balanced because within it there are real competitive forces, on the religious level (Shia and Sunni) and national and ethnic forces. Therefore, the Shia majority is a not a dilemma as claimed by some Sunnis and the Arab Iraqis do not dominate the entire country as Kurds or Turkmen used to fear. The election process developed into political partisanship and electoral games based on a mathematical equation that aims to achieve a majority i.e. half the parliamentary seats plus one.

Even the Kurds, the rule makers, for the first time are worried not about Arabs or sectarianism but about intellectual rebellion amongst the Kurds after opposition appeared in Kurdistan seeking to break the monopoly of the two parties for their votes. If we assume that this is what the election results will show in a few days then the Iraqis have actually become Iraqis by practice rather than just by [raising] patriotic slogans. Each person is entitled to elect in accordance with what he sees is in his own interest as a citizen rather than following a sheep mentality and merely following his sect or tribe.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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