In an interview with the Next Century Foundation, Dr. Akram Al-Obaidy, Spokesman of the Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, outlined his future hopes for Kirkuk and its position within Iraq at this present time. With a round of parliamentary elections due in April 2014, Dr. Al-Obaidy was keen to present them as a crucial moment for the future development and prosperity of Kirkuk.
After 10 years of what he described as an “unsuitable” situation in Kirkuk with “very little communication between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen”, Dr. Al-Obaidy has called for a strengthening of links between the three groups.
Indeed, he cites Mosul as an example of how communication between the various ethnic groups “free from any interference from Baghdad” has provided the foundations for rising levels of peace and promising infrastructural development. Moreover, Dr. Al-Obaidy states that, “any desire for Baghdad to involve themselves in Kirkuk would be unwise due to the problems surrounding the Central Government at the moment, particularly with the recent dramatic rise in sectarian violence and bloodshed across Iraq”. Additionally, he fears that, “any interference could see Kirkuk being drawn into this wider Iraqi sectarian agenda, losing sight and focus of what needs to be done in Kirkuk alone”.
Once effective communication is established between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen in Kirkuk, Dr. Al-Obaidy notes that discussions must be had on the following issues: power-sharing, security, a fair and equal distribution of wealth, revenue and supplies and above all, more representation and attention towards the under-developed Arab areas of Kirkuk.
Therefore, the forthcoming Parliamentary Elections are being highlighted by Dr. Akram Al-Obaidy as an important opportunity for potentially the next decade in Kirkuk. Dr. Al-Obaidy believes his Motahadon party, which acts in coalition with other Arabic parties under the umbrella of the Arabic Kirkuk Alliance (a group of 12 parties and 24 candidates), represents a new breed of politicians that can “finally bring true and fair Arab representation to politics in Kirkuk”. He claims that Arab representation has often lagged in contrast to Kurd and Turkman in the region.
Dr. Al-Obaidy is optimistic that the contingent of the 875,000 voting population in Kirkuk can produce as many as four winning MPs in the upcoming elections. Al-Obaidy’s parties will also be putting forward a number of female candidates, with the hope of at least one being successful. The elections see a total of 12 seats available in Kirkuk with one additional seat exclusively given to a Christian candidate.