HASAN KANBOLAT :
Turkmens in the government formation process in Iraq
Government formation efforts got a boost during Ramadan in Iraq but were not successful. The expectations for concluding the negotiations that have been going on since the general elections of March 7 just after Eid al-Fitr were high, but this could not be done.
This was followed by disappointment over the possibility of establishing a government at all. And many started to suggest that it might be several months before a government could be formed. For the last six months, Iraq has lacked a government; yet, Nouri al-Maliki’s bureaucracy continues to function. Contracts are awarded, and bureaucratic appointments continue without interruption. Schools are open. The system works.
Leading politicians and Turkmen deputies elected to the Iraqi national parliament started to pay more frequent visits to Ankara in connection with the government formation process in Ramadan and after the Eid al-Fitr. Although they were paying individual visits to Turkey, Turkmen deputies who were elected to the Iraqi parliament in the general elections gathered together for the first time at an iftar (fast-breaking dinner) attended by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Friday, Aug. 14. Only İzzettin Devle and Taki Mevla could not attend the iftar. Devle met with Davutoğlu in Ankara on Aug. 24, while Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) leader Sadettin Ergeç visited him on Aug. 25. Last week, it was Mevla who visited İstanbul and Ankara.
The last general elections were a complete success story for Turkmens. Previously, there was only one deputy from the ITC in the Iraqi parliament. After elections on March 7, this rose to six, including two women -- Jale Neftçi and Müdrike Ahmet. With four deputies from other parties, the total number of Turkmen deputies represented in the Iraqi parliament grew to 10. Thus, ITC deputies who were elected from the list of al-Iraqiya are İzzettin Devle (Mosul-Talafar), Müdrike Ahmet (Mosul-Reşidiye), Nebil Harbo (Mosul-Talafar), Erşad Salihi (Kirkuk), Jale Neftçi (Kirkuk) and Hasan Özmen (Diyala), while there is also Muhammed Osman (Diyala) from the list of al-Iraqiya.
The Turkmens who were elected from the State of Law list were Jasim Mohammed Jaafar (Salahaddin), Abbas Beyati (Baghdad) and Taki Mevla (Mosul-Talafar).
With the general elections of March 7, Iraqi Turkmens for the first time managed to gain a certain amount of leverage in Iraqi politics, but what do they want from Baghdad? What are their future plans?
Turkmens have started to learn politics in Iraq over the last 10 years. After the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the central government in Baghdad tended to perceive them as extensions of Turkey and pressured them. For this reason, they suffered difficulties in preserving their language and culture. They also could not take part in political life in Iraq. Iraqi Turkmens have always advocated the integrity of Iraq. Even after the invasion in 2003, they did not stop promoting the country’s integrity. Despite the widespread terror in the country, they avoided armed clashes.
Iraqi Turkmens wanted to maintain the integrity of Iraq while preserving their political and culture existence. They believe that Iraq has a bright future. The Turkmen deputies want to form a “Turkmen group” in the Iraqi parliament. Groups, called majmua in Arabic, can be established within the Iraqi parliament at the initiative of the parliament speaker, and these groups are given staff and places in parliament. Groups can be influential in appointments and assignments.
Turkmens also want to assume effective positions in Iraqi politics. Thus, they want to be president and/or prime minister and/or deputy speaker. Moreover, they seek to become deputy ministers in one or more of the major ministries -- oil, finance, interior, foreign and defense ministries. As for minor ministries -- electricity, local administrations, resettlement, health and justice-- they are eager to assume the office of a minister and/or deputy minister.
In several years the Iraqi Electricity Ministry is expected to make investments amounting to $50 billion, while the Oil Ministry is planning to employ 500,000 people.
A census will be conducted on Oct. 24. The most recent census was held in 1997 during the Saddam era. Turkmen deputies argue that the census should be postponed as it will not give a true picture. The political decision-making mechanism in Iraq does not work. The bureaucracy has come to a standstill. Under these circumstances, it is suggested that a census will not produce accurate figures and will be totally wrong in controversial areas currently under Kurdish pressure.
Indeed, during the last year, Kurdish groups have been exerting pressure on political and tribal leaders who oppose Article 140 with respect to the controversial areas. Some of them were killed or forced to emigrate, especially in Diyala. But these pressures are going unnoticed by Baghdad and the US.
It is clear that Turkmens will play greater roles in Iraqi politics.