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 Kurdistan Elections Begin to Sizzle

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Kurdistan Elections Begin to Sizzle  4.7.2009  
By Shkow Sharif 

July 4, 2009

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The buzz of electioneering is certainly in the Kurdish air. It is impossible to go half an hour without hearing a campaign anthem or seeing an election slogan. Young and old have poured onto the streets of Kurdistan in support of their lists and vehicles kitted to suit. But week two of campaigning has been important for numerous reasons; first, this week has seen the money poured into the campaigns by the ‘Kurdistani’ list bare its fruit and consequently has given them a comfortable lead in the polls.

Second, it has seen a slowing of momentum from Nawshirwan Mustafa’s ‘Change’ list as they seem to have been sidetracked by the passing of the Kurdistan Draft Constitution. Third, this week has witnessed the first rumblings of violence and unrest between the supporters of the two leading lists. Lastly, it has seen the Kurdistan Presidential Elections gain in momentum with cross candidate planning.                
This week has seen the ‘Kurdistani’ list’s financial wealth capitalise the campaigning process. The ‘Kurdistani’ list has used this week to strengthen their already strong celebrity endorsement. Along with the famous Kurdish Singer Aziz Wayse’s support, who according to street hearsay has been paid $200,000 to record a song for the list, the ‘Kurdistani’ list has this week been able to spend more money to gain the support of famous stars from hit Kurdish television shows Mn Jyawazm and Barnamay Barnama,. Moreover, they have also enlisted the support of many other famous musicians such as Chopey Fatah and Hany.

The ‘Kurdistani’ lists experience in electioneering has also helped them to bolster their position this week. They have engaged in many symbolic events such as, mass rallies, progressive television addresses, speeches and they have also used general political issues to strengthen their image. These political issues include the governments passing of the Draft Kurdish Constitution, the American withdrawal from Iraqi towns and cities, Iraqi oil issues and the bombings in Kirkuk. All in all week two it seems has served the ‘Kurdistani’ list very well.

The ‘Change’ list, on the other hand, contrary to what many of their candidates will tell you, have not been able to perform a repeat of their first week’s successes. This many argue is down to a number of key issues. Firstly, one of the major reasons has been that the rushed passing of the Kurdistan Draft Constitution and the introduction of its referendum to the July 25th already planned elections had steered the “Change” list into two directions. (a) They need to gain as many seats as possible in the KRG and (b) Due to disagreements with articles in the constitution they have to campaign to force its failure at the referendum phase. This has stretched the “Change” lists resources and has forced them to fall behind in Week Two.

Second, week two has seen the “Change” list completely outspent by the Kurdistani list forcing the “Change” list to hit their airwaves to fundraise for their movement.

Third, the “Change” list has yet to put Nawshirwan Mustafa in front of a live audience which has thus far been avoided. Nawshirwan Mustafa so far only sends out a daily pre-recorded message through his TV and Radio stations directly to his supporters.

And lastly, there is an argument running the rounds in Iraqi Kurdistan that the “Change” list may have played their cards to early in the process. There big push in week one seems to have eaten into their funds. Halwest Subhi for instance, a keen young supporter of the “Change” list tells the blog that he wants to support the “Change” list but any time he approaches their offices they seem to be out of merchandise to help him push their message to others. Having said this, the ‘Change’ list’s support is still strong and causing commotion for the ‘Kurdistani’ list.

What they must do in week three is push to win support amongst the undecided voters. The candidates need to spend much more time addressing the Kurdish people directly by spending more time outside of their bases.

Week two is also the first time supporters clashed with each other and with riot police in Sulaimaniyah. This raises the question of what this squaring off will come too on results day. Will either list reject the result? How will they reject it? This is an issue worth keeping note of as we move past the halfway point and close in on Election Day.

The final point worth discussing is that the tail end of this week has seen the Kurdistan Presidential Elections heat up. There have been negotiations among the four challenging presidential candidates, although according to some reports not successful, to come together and to put forward only one candidate to go up against Massoud Barzani in order to strengthen the challengers vote. This is an issue to keep an eye on as we move into week three.

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