IRAQ: National Unity Coalition in Kurdish Parliament submits proposal to change quota system in attempt to stop Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian vote ‘theft’

ANKAWA / ERBIL, Iraq – The National Unity Coalition in the Parliament of the Kurdish Region in Iraq (KRI) has submitted a proposal to the presidency of parliament to amend the quota system in place for the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people. Under Iraq’s election law, the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people have been allotted 5 parliamentarian seats in the KRI, of which the National Union Coalition holds three, and 5 in the Iraqi parliament. The proposal’s main purpose is to protect the allocated quota and to end any outside abuse or disruption of legal voting mechanisms, thereby distorting the image of quota MPs and their parliamentary performance.

In an issued statement, the Coalition states it wants to “protect the quota seats from non-Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian political parties interfering in their vote and quota.” The proposal bill would limit the quota vote to only “our people so that non-Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians are not entitled to cast their votes for our quota seats.” This would limit outside interference from e.g. Kurdish and Shiite Arab parties calling on their Kurdish and Arab followers to vote in favor of ‘their’ Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian candidate and in this way ‘stealing’ Christian Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian quota seats.

The National Unity Coalition proposal submitted to the Kurdish Parliament calls for (1) a separate day for the election of Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian MPs, (2) the allocation of funds and establishment of a Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian electoral register for the election of representatives of the quota of our people, and (3) to increase the number of quota seats from 5 to 10.

The National Unity Coalition says that their proposal would also counter internal finger pointing and accusations back and forth of working as proxies for Kurdish and Arab parties by Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian political parties and their supporters. There has been much criticism about the failure of Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian parties to come to effective inter-party dialogue and real constructive and joint national initiatives.

The National Unity Coalition’s proposal seems to suggest that there are foul outside forces at work trying to sabotage Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian inter-party dialogue, and maybe similarly inter-church dialogue, making it impossible to achieve joint initiatives and make Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian parties and their politicians appear weak and ineffective. In August of this year, the Beth Nahrain Democratic Party, part of the National Unity Coalition, initiated an attempt to come to a National Action Pact but this initiative was rejected by most parties except the Bethnahrain Patriotic Union and Abnaa Nahrain.

There have been many allegations against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the central Iraqi government of weakening the political and cultural position of Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians through demographic change or falsification of history.

The outspoken former Syriac Member of Iraqi Parliament and leader of the al-Warqaa Democratic Bloc Joseph Sliwa claims that both governments try to ally Christian Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian politicians and clergy, sometimes openly and sometimes through subtle actions and ministerial nominations, to these ongoing policies of, what he calls, the Kurdification and Islamization of Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian heritage through pushing demographic change in Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian living areas by acquisition of vast Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian lands and properties in the KRI and the areas under Shiite rule. By nominating Syriacs to weak ministerial positions is to create a false impression and a legitimization that Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians are involved in the governance and administration of the country and the KRG.

Lara Yousef Zarra

One such nomination which received much criticism was the nomination in 2017 of Syriac Chaldean Mayor Lara Yousef Zarra. In its 2017 Religious Freedom Report, the U.S. State Department stated that Christian civil society organizations had reported that the Syriac Chaldean mayors in Alqosh and Tel Kepe were replaced, reportedly due to corruption, with KDP members who also were Christian. At the direction of the mayor, security forces in Alqosh arrested and threatened a group who publicly protested this decision. Christian groups stated this was part of a “Kurdization” of their towns.”

While perhaps not the most democratic instrument available, the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian fixed quota (as for some other components) was introduced in Iraq’s election law to preserve ethnic and cultural pluralism when Iraq established its democracy between 2003-2005. Democracy in Iraq was institutionalized in the democratic system along sectarian lines and the quota system for smaller indigenous components was intended to guarantee their future existence and constitutional rights.

National Unity Coalition proposal submitted to Kurdish Parliament