Government Formation Process and Situation of Turkmens in Iraq


Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on November 21, 2017, that DAESH was militarily defeated, and declared a new era in Iraq. The struggle against DAESH, lasting for about 3.5 years, brought about different dynamics in the country. It is possible to assert that these dynamics will maintain their impact in the post-DAESH period for a long time. The political developments and debates that took place before and after the parliamentary elections held on May 12, 2018, were a kind of proof of this very situation. Just as in almost every process in Iraq, Turkmens have also received their share and suffered a bad experience.

The said elections are a substantial cornerstone for Iraq since they are the first elections held in the post-DAESH period. In the wake of the parliamentary elections held on April 30, 2014, that DAESH took control over some of the Iraqi territories in June 2014 led to the establishment of the government in an extraordinary environment. By the end of 2017, although the DEASH control in Iraq was terminated, the traces left by the organization had significant effects on politics. The power gap in the field of security and politics during the control of the organization in Iraq brought together the influence of new actors such as al-Hashd al-Shabi on politics and security. On the other hand, in addition to the KRG referendum held on September 25, 2017, and the developments taking place in its aftermath, the Iraqi central government's re-control over Kirkuk and the controversial regions on October 16, 2017, significantly altered the political dynamics and created a new political map in Iraq.

The coalitions and alliances that took shape before these elections in Iraq which had to hold the election under all these circumstances constitute a sample for that the politics in Iraq is different now. As a matter of fact, there were 204 parties and 27 coalitions in the elections and for the first time in Iraq ethnic and religious groups entered elections with such a multi-fragmented political structure. As for the Turkmens, they participated in the elections for the first time in Kirkuk with a single list, while in the provinces such as Mosul and Saladin, where the Turkmens lived intensively, they took part in different coalitions.


Turkmen attitude in elections
While 11 Turkmen parties who are among the most affected groups by DAESH registered to participate in the elections, Turkmen political parties in Kirkuk, the province where the Turkmen politics are the most powerful, agreed to enter elections under the roof of Kirkuk Turkmen Front led by Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) President Ershad Salihi. This situation was a very significant development in terms of the political unity of Turkmens and the preservation of their total identity. Furthermore, 32 Turkmen candidates from five various lists joined the elections in Kirkuk. The fact that Turkmen political parties did not decide to enter elections with a common list in a province other than Kirkuk was an important deficiency regarding the existence of Turkmen identity in other regions. In Mosul, Saladin and Baghdad, coalitions also including Turkmen parties were formed.

The influence of the Turkmen parties which was already low due to separation and division on many issues, such as the other parties, decreased even further. The fact that some influential Turkmen political figures act on behalf of their personal interests and Turkmen leaders and politicians failed to agree and more than one person was nominated for an office, further deepened the disagreements in Turkmen politics. Therefore, this situation was reflected in the public and prompted the problems in the social dimension of the Turkmen to be deepened. As a result, the Turkmen political movement was disintegrated, weakened, and divided within itself, which negatively affected the election performance of Turkmens. As a matter of fact, according to the results of the election, the Turkmen had 10 deputies from different provinces and lists according to the results of the controversial elections announced under the shadow of the allegations of cheating. Entering the elections for the first time in Kirkuk with a joint list, Turkmens had 3 deputies in Kirkuk.

While it is possible to consider this issue as a relative success for the Turkmen who previously had 2 deputies in the 2014 elections, the fact that there is a strong evidence proving the PUK conducted a fraud in Kirkuk justifies the claims that the election results in Kirkuk do not reflect the truth. On the other hand, 4 MPs were elected from Mosul (Tal Afar), while 2 MPs were elected from Saladin (Tuz Khurmatu) and 1 from Baghdad. Whereas it is surprising that all of the Turkmen deputies elected in Mosul were the candidates from Tal Afar, that the election of 3 out of 4 deputies from the Fetih List led by Hadi al-Amiri formed by the groups in Hashd al-Shabi was also a remarkable development. On the other hand, the fact that the Iraqi Turkmen Front, the largest and most widespread Turkmen political party in Iraq, could not have any deputies elected in any of the coalitions in the provinces other than Kirkuk, has caused controversy over the effectiveness of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in the Turkmen geography. Nevertheless, the fact that all of the elected Turkmen deputies, other than the head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, Ershad Salihi, were new faces and elected from the groups that had not been represented before, seems to have led to a change in the political behavior of the Turkmens.

The attempt to exclude Turkmens
With the approval of the election results after the controversial parliamentary elections in Iraq on May 12, 2018, the process of forming a government has begun. Following the announcement of the first election results, the competition of different political groups coming together to become the largest group in the parliament could not yield a result; however, the candidates on whom the maximum consensus could be obtained for several posts in different levels were determined. As a matter of fact, on September 15, 2018, former governor of Anbar Mohamed al-Halbousi was elected as the chairman of the parliament. With this process, the first concrete step was taken for the government formation process. After the election of the speaker of the parliament and his deputies, the Iraqi parliament convened on October 2 to elect the president, and Barham Salih of the PUK considered to be the strongest candidate in the Iraqi parliament was elected President as expected. After the oath-taking ceremony, Barham Salih appointed Adil Abdul-Mahdi to establish the government.

Following the appointment of Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the government started to be established in accordance with the constitutional regulations, which is expected to last 30 days. Although Abdul-Mahdi announced that he would establish a technocratic government at every opportunity, after about 20 days, he prepared a list of ministers of 22 members and brought this cabinet to the Iraqi parliament on October 24, 2018. However, as a part of the political groups abandoned the meeting room by not accepting the designated members, only 14 of the cabinet members Adil Abdul-Mahdi brought to the parliament were able to get the vote of confidence and no voting could be carried out about the other names. One of the most noticeable aspects of the list consisting of 22 people was the absence of a Turkmen name, the third and founding principal element of Iraq, to be appointed as a minister just like in the al-Abadi cabinet. The fact that Turkmens were not included in the list of names for the ministries also demolished the claim of Iraq to be a just and democratic country as it is against the unity and integrity of Iraq.

As a matter of fact, the Turkmen were represented in every cabinet formed after 2003 even with even one minister. While a Turkmen minister was included in the cabinet after the 2014 elections, in 2016, the Ministry of Human Rights led by Turkmens was abolished by al-Abadi and no other ministries were given to the Turkmens. In the cabinet of 2018, while Christians are represented as a minority in Iraq, the fact that Turkmens are not represented in the last cabinet formed is in contradiction with the principle of equality. The non-representation of the Turkmens who have 10 deputies in the Iraqi parliament casts a shadow on national unity and the Turkmen are ignored. In this sense, Turkmens, the most victimized group in the process after the DAESH, seem to be excluded from the political process. On the other hand, even after the election, 10 Turkmen deputies announced that they had formed a group in the parliament, but they failed to act jointly upon the ministry to get and failed to form a joint candidate.

The independence of ministers controversial
Even though the ministers approved by the Iraqi parliament seem to be a technocrat and independent on paper, that they are nominated by parties and political masses raise questions about their independence. It is likely that the new ministers will be subject to pressures from political parties as they are nominated by political groups. At the same time, political ties in countries in the democratization process sometimes facilitate the protection of institutional functioning. At this point, it should be kept in mind that independent candidates, without political protection, may come under the pressure of political groups or militia groups who cannot obtain positions.

In particular, in order to have a technocrat and politically independent cabinet in Iraq, the state control mechanism and the security apparatus must be developed and should be capable of maintaining the government's position. Along with the challenge led by the struggle against DAESH, the regional and global political interventions, the political dispute with the KRG and the position of the Sunni Arabs in the post-DAESH period are the most serious issues waiting for Abdul-Mahdi. Inequality in politics also appears to be a destabilizing factor. For this reason, the political stability in Iraq and the continuity of government seems to be difficult. At this point, to establish a full participatory management mechanism by realizing a real national consensus in Iraq is the best way out.

However, the problems of societies facing political and ethnic inequality, especially the Turkmens, deepen the problems in the country. At this point, it will be appropriate to say that the Turkmen identity in Iraq has been eroded or made erode. While the Turkmens could not come to the position they deserved in the post-2003 political system in Iraq, they faded into the background day by day in both local and general politics. Especially in June 2014, after the DAESH formed several regions of dominance in Iraq, the Turkmens, politically declining, faced all the adversities caused by the terrorist organization. While Turkmens became a direct target of DAESH, they migrated from places such as Tal Afar and Mosul, Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu and Diyala where the organization had a control or influence.

At least 600,000 Turkmen are said to have become refugees. While a part of Iraqi Turkmens migrated to the areas such as Najaf, Karbala, and Hill in southern Iraq, another part went to Duhok and Arbil in northern Iraq, and another part was forced to emigrate to Turkey. In this regard, Turkmens became a minority population in the regions they migrated. Also distant from social life, the Turkmens suffered several troubles such as exclusion where they went and faced problems such as unemployment and lack of education. On the other hand, despite the fact that the dominance of the DAESH was terminated in the field, the majority of Turkmen people living in places such as Tal Afar and Tuz Khurmatu still could not return to their homes.

At this point, Turkmens need a serious recovery again. The efforts of some Turkmen nationalists and the role of the Turkish government should be appreciated in this regard. In terms of contributing to the settlement of disputes, Turkey should be stated to take important initiatives to back up and merge these efforts and to encourage political leaders to work together. However, this is not enough alone. From leaders to politicians, from intellectuals to ordinary people, all Turkmens must take the initiative. As the Turkmen stand together, it will be more difficult to ignore them. The Turkmen showed the best example of this after the elections. Turkmens, who showed their objection to the elections in Kirkuk, defended their rights in unity in squares for 28 days and as a result of these demonstrations, the votes were counted again manually. Although there has not been a major change in the results, it has become a historical cornerstone in terms of showing that the most accurate way to feel and protect the existence of the Turkmens is unity. In this sense, it would be appropriate to say that if the Turkmens maintain this unity, it will not be possible for their rights to be ignored.