Friday, July 17, 2009

Mirawdali battles the two major parties for election media coverage

“I refuse federalism for only three provinces.”—Kamal Mirawdali

By Ako Muhammed

Without the power of the pen and a mobile phone, presidential candidate Kamal Mirawdali finds it difficult to garner enough media coverage to battle for the biggest post of his political life.

Are you really in the race to be elected president?

I hope so. But this is a competition with the current president. I don’t have any means compared to the current president. For my election campaign I have only two things: my pen and my mobile phone.

Without my mobile, I could not even be in the race. I have no organization or important power to mobilize people, organize meetings or publicize my campaign. The first two days I felt very alone, but the third day--I don’t know how--people knew about my phone number. Speaking without exaggeration, every minute I receive three calls. [During this time, his phone rang; he passed it to an assistant.] They say ‘we are families, families of martyrs, young people’; they say ‘we are watching out for you--don’t worry, we support you.’ Even within the political parties and from higher levels, even from the KDP and PUK, the Four Parties, from the Goran [Change] List; they say ‘don’t worry, we are working for you.’

Even from KDP and PUK?

Even from KDP and PUK; they say ‘we are distributing your card and telling people about your phone number.’ I am very optimistic. But the people ask me every day why I don’t appear on TV, why can’t they see me, why can’t I convey my message.

Why can’t you?

I don’t have the TV coverage and the political parties won’t allow me. Everything is controlled by political parties. They [television stations] have actually deprived me. TV and media are the oxygen of campaigning.

But you can pay for it.

They don’t accept payment. That is very strange; in any democratic country they would stop the election because you are the main candidate. All the channels [are blocked], not only the media. But still I am optimistic because I got into the core of most parties and people.

Why won’t the media accept you?

No, the media accepts me and wants to support me. Most of them are very sympathetic; they are my friends, and some of them are my students. It is not the people in the media; it is the political parties.

Have you received any threats?

No, never. I have received at least 500 calls, all nice calls.

When you are elected, how would you stand over the two major powers?

Even now, current President Mr. Massoud Barzani is a strong power; it is not a power of law and not because of his title. This power is because he heads a party and has strong capital; they have many resources and relations, and militias. If I am elected, I have a lot of legitimacy with the people. I am not going to use it to establish a party or to threaten people. I have been using dialogue. For now as I have been here for about one month, I have visited all political leaders. I have found out that 80% of them share the same points of view, so there is a political consensus with them.

Speaking of power, the draft Constitution now gives a lot of power to the president. How do you feel about it?

Yes, there is confusion about the Constitution because we have a parliamentary system and all the power should return to Parliament to make the decision. But now, a lot of powers have been given in the draft Constitution to the president. So, there is pushing in the direction of a presidential style of government. In our country, there is a possibility these powers of the president could create a dictator. That’s why I decided to abolish this post of a regional president and replace it with the House of Senates.

What would the House of Senates consist of?

For example, if Parliament issues a law, then the president decides whether to accept, refuse or amend it. Also, the president has the power to suggest new law. He has the power to abolish Parliament when 50 of the members boycott; the KDP and PUK may make the majority, and then they decide to boycott Parliament for three sessions. The president can say Parliament is not working and decide on a new election.

Now, instead of one person having all these powers and being able to decide which law is good for our people, there will be a Senate House, like 70 members representing all Kurdistan Region and representing all sections of society. They would be noticeable socially respected individuals--people with experience in culture and administration, technocrats, people from abroad, intellectuals, writers, religious leaders, and so on.

How do you see the Kurdish self-determination issue?

Kurdistan has suffered from genocide. When I came in 1991, the whole Kurdistan Region was a big document of genocide. Five-thousand villages had disappeared. I saw my village only in rubbles and the same in my hometown Qaladizya. I saw nothing, only rubble; there was a big legal, concrete, geographical, social and human right document of the genocide. I stayed in order to decrease the suffering and have written so many letters and more than 500 articles in English and in Arabic demanding international guarantee for Kurds not to be exposed to genocide again. I demanded that at least Iraq should recognize genocide in the Constitution and rebuild the ruined villages. We have a program for reconstructing Halabja and to build a modern European style monument, and the same with Qaladizya, and also to build a city for the victims of Anfal in Garmiyan as well as buildings for Barzani families in Qushtapa in order to dignify their lives. But they haven’t done anything; no guarantees and reconstructions [have been achieved].

But now, actually the only thing that I want is a very genuine democratic Kurdistan and a very democratic Iraq. For example, the army in the Constitution needs to be under civilian rule where it cannot be used for intimidation or aggression against any part of Iraqi society. If there is a political democracy of multinationalism, in such a democracy Kurds would have the political right in any part of Iraq, even in Kirkuk, which is multinational. This means the Kurds--when they vote-- vote first as Kurds and then as Iraqis. In Britain, Scots are Scots, Irish is Irish.

Since the Kurds are allowed to vote for Parliament, we don’t have problems even without a need to mention borders. In Kirkuk, I want the displaced people to be returned and compensated, and houses to be built for them; this is the first.

The second is to be recognized as Iraqi citizens, not even as Kurdish Iraqi citizens. As far as they have right to vote, in the real democracy they would vote as Kurds naturally. When you call it Iraqi, it means Iraqi Kurdish or Iraqi Arab, this is a fact. And the third is because the Iraqi Constitution recognizes the Kurdish language as the second language and recognizes the culture’s rights, so Kurds can have their own schools. I don’t have any problem in power with Iraq. But when Kurds are oppressed because they are Kurds, then I will not accept that.

Do you see any threat from Baghdad on the Kurdish nation in Iraq?

I think there is a threat but it is not an Arab threat; it is an Arab-Kurdish threat because of the government in Baghdad. The president is a Kurd, the deputy prime minister is Kurd, and the foreign minister is Kurd, as well as other ministers. So, if there is a threat, they ought to leave Iraq and come back to Kurdistan. But they want to share the capitals, the gains, the money, posts, ambassadors and minister. They have done nothing for Kurds in Baghdad. According to reports by the KDP and PUK, 170,000 Kurds were not recognized as citizens and were deprived of the right to vote in the provincial election in Baghdad, Diala, and Mosul. In five years, they couldn’t even restore the right of citizenship to Kurds.

Are the borders of Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Sinjar, and other places important to you?

If we accept genuine democracy, we don’t need really even to mention borders. Because as long as Kurds have the right to seek what they need, they have the right to be Iraqi citizens and participate in political processes, and Kurds anywhere in Iraq have the right to practice their culture and go to their schools and study in their language, then this is genuine democracy.

Do you see federalism as a means for division or as a guarantee of Iraq’s unity?

I refuse federalism for only three provinces [of Kurdistan region]. This means isolating Kurds outside the three provinces and making them a subject to be threatened, to be discriminated against, and even to push them toward the three provinces. If federalism is included within Article 140 areas, I think it is better not to have three provinces as a federal region. A decentralized provincial system would be better, because then Kurds in Kirkuk, Diala, and Mosul will be able to practice their rights.

We don’t see women candidates in this presidential race.

I decided to have my deputy president be a woman. I am looking for intellectual, brave, and competent women.

It is said that Goran List supports you, but now we hear they are boycotting the presidential election.

I don’t know whether this is true or not. I will be shocked because of that. Their boycott means supporting the current president.

Did you really accuse Barzani of treason?

I was interviewed by “Livin” magazine and now I am interviewing with you, and I don’t know which part of my speech would be chosen and what type of title you will apply. When I speak on TV, I am responsible for what I say; but when I talk to a newspaper, I suddenly find something completely different.

You said you will go back to London if not elected president?

No. I promise to people that I will stay and work for democracy.

This interview is made for the Kurdish Globe but was not published.

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