Early tallies show that al-Hadba, the Sunni Arab nationalist group formed in 2006, has a strong lead in Iraq’s Nineveh province. If these results are confirmed, the party would gain a major role in the government of that province which includes Mosul, Iraq’s third largest and most diverse city, ousting many of the Kurdish representatives elected there in 2005.
Al-Hadba’s primary aim is to challenge Kurdish expansion in the region. Their party candidates tapped into Sunni complaints of ineffective government and resentment over Kurdish efforts to incorporate parts of the province into their self-governing region which borders Nineveh.
“Hadba should halt the role of Kurdish forces,” said Ziad Khalid, a 32-year-old clerk at Mosul University. “That will lead to the end of violence in the province and the defeat of al-Qaida as well.”
Mahdi Herky, a Kurdish council member seeking re-election, expressed confidence the vote would show support for the Kurdish regional government.
“There’s good evidence these places belong to the KRG,” he said. “We expect some tension. But we expect there will be understanding.”
With all signs pointing to victory, al-Hadba leader Atheel al-Nujaifi called on the Kurds to give up their territorial ambitions.
“People want to change the situation in the province,” he said in a telephone interview. “I guess violence will be halted except the areas that are under the Kurdish control, because this needs a Kurdish political decision to abandon their gains in this area.”
Al-Nujaifi said he expected opposition from the Kurds “but they can’t affect our work.”
“The Kurdish leadership should learn how to deal with the new situation and consider the Arabs after these elections,” he said.
Turnout in the Nineveh province was higher than most provinces in Iraq, reaching 60 percent. Overall Iraqi officials reported that turnout was 51 percent. Official results are expected midweek.
In one part of Nineveh province, in an area under Iraqi government control but which the Kurds claim as part of Iraqi Kurdistan, there is a large population of Yazidis. This ancient religious community based in northern Iraq is considered Kurdish by the Kurdish parties who court their votes.
The Yazidis themselves, whose villages were widely destroyed under Saddam Hussein’s campaign against the Kurds, are split over whether they consider themselves Kurdish and could be a crucial swing vote group in the region.
“The Kurds are very good to us – they help us with salaries, they provide services,” says Khalaf Khatha Khalaf, waiting to vote for the first time.
In Diyala province it was reported that some 80,000 Kurdish names were not included on the voter registration lists, which may result in a loss of at least three seats on the provincial council.
Future elections are slated for the following dates:
*19 May 2009: the three Kurdish provinces of KRG will vote
*June 2009: district elections due to take place, with referendum on the US-Iraq agreement
*December 2009-January 2010: proposed general election expected to take place
Arraf, J. Iraqi vote expected to bolster Maliki. The Christian Science Monitor, 02 February 2009. http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0202/p01s01-wome.html
Gamel, K. Sunni party likely big winner in northern Iraq, Associated Press, 02 February 2009. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g6DUXCJFehUSuMOcewSA1ghMHgFAD9633A300
Haynes, D. Confusion over registration restricts turnout in Iraq poll to 51%. The Times, 02 February 2009. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article5632929.ece
Londoño, E. In Iraq’s North, Vote Will Define Loyalties, Disputes. Washington Post (Foreign Service). 02 February 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/01/AR2009020102087.html
Thousands of Kurdish votes missed. Kurdish Aspect. 01 February 2009. http://www.kurdishaspect.com/doc020109KS.html
تغييرات في الخارطة السياسية بالنتائج الأولية للانتخابات بالعراق Al Jazeera.net, 01 February 2009, http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/8BB2ABC8-CE60-4FB7-9FA2-5679690E46B8.htm?wbc_purpose=Basic%2CBasic_Current