The KDP launched the election campaign in Erbil with a minute of silence, and the Kurdish national anthem.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) wants to have a strong presence in Baghdad to secure the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani told party supporters at an event to launch the party’s electoral campaign in Erbil on Monday.
The election this year is "crucial" for both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, said Barzani, who is also the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region.
"Even one vote matters."
"The stronger the KDP, the status and the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region are more guaranteed,” Barzani said. "[KDP] wants to encourage Baghdad and offer a helping hand to solve all problems and challenges through dialogue and peaceful means."
Senior leadership members like Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan Security Council, were present at the event.
PM Barzani received the biggest round of applause when he said that the party is united under the single leadership of Masoud Barzani, president of the party.
Masrour and Nechirvan are cousins and some outside the party believe they are each vying for the post of head of the party.
"Many times, our enemies and rivals – in order to discourage you from continuing your struggle to achieve the legitimate rights of the people of Kurdistan under the banner of the Kurdistan Democratic Party – they spread the rumour that the KDP has an issue with different factions, that the KDP lacks unity... but rest assured and I tell you this with certainty: the KDP is a united party,” PM Barzani said.
“We all struggle for the rights of the people of Kurdistan. We have only one leader. We will continue our struggle under the banner of that leader to achieve the rights of the people of Kurdistan," he continued. Masoud Barzani is the father of Masrour and the uncle of Nechirvan.
The Kurdish parties are going to the polls just months after historic territorial losses – the fall of disputed territories like Kirkuk to Iraqi forces after the KDP-led independence referendum.
While the Peshmerga lost much of the disputed areas with little resistance, they fought back against the Iraqi military incursion in Pirde, 50 kilometres south of the capital Erbil, and near Kurdistan’s borders with Turkey – places that are under KDP influence.
Some Kurdish parties blame the KDP for the losses because it pressed ahead with the referendum despite strong opposition from Baghdad and international community.
"People of Kurdistan are witnesses to the fact that were it not for the patience, resistance, and sacrifices of the KDP, the events of late last year would have completely changed the fate of the Kurdistan Region in such a way that nobody would have been able to predict what could happen," Barzani said.
The KDP remains a strong believer in the Kurdish right to self-determination through peaceful means, he added.
The disputed areas fall under Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution that stipulates a referendum must be held to determine whether the people in those areas want to join the Kurdistan Region or remain with Iraq.
PM Barzani said they want to see the article finally implemented, but stressed they want to do so through dialogue.
"The KDP has never missed an opportunity for peace. It is ready to enter year-long negotiation, but it does not want to see fighting even for a single day in Kurdistan."
The KDP is and will be the largest party in the Kurdistan Region, PM Barzani said.
"And therefore, it is the duty of the supporters and members of the KDP to prove like they always do: the KDP is the first force in Kurdistan and the KDP will remain the first force in Kurdistan."
He praised the leadership of Masoud Barzani, the former president of the Kurdistan Region, and his role in the formation of the new Iraq post-Saddam Hussein, saying that the KDP will play a significant role when the next government in Iraq is established.
Masoud Barzani’s “strong influence” in the new Iraq means he “will be regarded as a special actor in all political equations,” PM Barzani said.
In an indication that the Kurdish parties are more divided now than they have been since 2003, almost all are running separate campaigns in the Iraqi parliamentary elections with the exception of the Homeland (Nishtiman) Alliance between Gorran, the Coalition for Democracy and Justice, and the Islamic Group in Kirkuk and Diyala. In previous Iraqi elections, the Kurdish parties have formed a joint list.
PM Barzani said that the KDP will make efforts to form a united Kurdish front in Baghdad following the vote on May 12.