On May 13th 2019, after weeks of tensions between major political parties, the Nineveh Provincial Council elected Mansur Maried as the new governor. The governor-election immediately sparked a national-level tension between key political leaders and further deepened the existing polarization.
Rival political groups leaders have accused each other of bribing members of the provincial council and buying their votes for certain candidates. They also started pressuring the Iraqi parliament to disband the Nineveh Council and sack the yesterday’s elected governor.
Contrary to what some politicians promised, the governor’s election just deepened the existing national and Nineveh-level divisions and political disputes. It is expected to open more doors for further disputes between multiple political parties and factions, but they are all grouped around the different axes to support and stand against the newly elected governor.
28 members of the Nineveh Provincial Council (out of 39) voted for Marid, and he replaced Nawfal Hamadi, who was dismissed with his deputies over the disastrous Mosul’s ferry-accident that killed more than140 people, mostly children and women.
The governor’s election took place in a chaotic situation that embroiled some protests into the hall where the voting process took place. During the election, some members withdrew from the session. The withdrawn members had some quarrels with those who supported elected governor, and they invited protestors who were gathering outside of the provincial council office against Marid.
In a press conference following the session, Nwradin Qablan, deputy president of Nineveh’s provincial council stated that Tahalf Al-Nineveh and Masud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democrat Party (KDP) elected Marid. The KDP also guaranteed the position of first deputy governor for its member Nawzad Rozjbayani in exchange for supporting Marid.
The governor election divided all key Nineveh and Iraqi political actors, back to the same deep-rooted division that prevented forming Iraqi cabinet for several months when no faction form majority and come up with a prime-ministers candidate. Parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halhosi will ask for disbanding the Nineveh’s provincial council soon in the upcoming parliament session on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of major parliamentarian block Sairoon Coalition, from his Twitter account called on Iraq’s three presidencies, especially prime minister and the president of republic of Iraq to immediately end up the ongoing “suppression” that people of Mosul are suffering “due to the so called provincial council,” as he said.
He insisted, “The presidencies have to stop this joke, disband the council, send some trusts to the governorate’s administration and take it out of the ordeal until there will be a proper environment to form a new council.”
Former PM Haidar al-Abbadi and several MPs have condemned the Nineveh Governor election. It seems they already determined to gather supports for the parliament speaker Halbosi’s efforts to disband the council and reject the newly elected governor.
In the other side, Fatih Coalition, the KDP, and some fractions of Arab Sunni political parties support Marid. Until the upcoming parliament session, when the destiny of the governor will be determined, many shifts are expected in positons of parliamentarian blocks and political leaders towards this issue. Therefore, it would not be easy to expect the number of MPs who support Marid’s election or stand against him.
Despite the national polarization, Mihwar Coalition, to which parliament speaker belongs and led by key Arab Sunni leaders such as Usama al-Nujefi, Khamis Al-Khanjar, and Jamal al-Karboli, split into two rival groups, according to MP Mohammed Karboli, member of the coalition. On its side, the coalition dismissed the parliament speaker yesterday in a public announcement following the governor election.
In Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), second largest Kurdish block, also announced its stance against the governor election, while the KDP, the largest Kurdish bloc supports the governor. Small Kurdish blocks like Gorran, Kurdistan Islamic Union, The Islamic Group of Kurdistan, CJD, and New Generation (have 14 seats) have not announced their positions yet.
Legal Statues of the Election Process
Legitimacy of the Nineveh’s provincial council’s act to elect Marid is questionable by some law experts. Ahmad al-Tae, law expert from Mosul, believed that the provincial council’s election of Marid “is not valid legally.” He stated that the Iraqi parliament, which has higher authority than provincial councils, asked not to hold the session for electing the governor, but the Nineveh’s Council disobeyed.
“Since the parliament asked to postpone the provincial session in order to investigate the corruption-allegations that were associated the governor election process. The Federal Court would ultimately rule on the governor’s election and cancel it,” Al-Tae further explained.
The upcoming parliamentarian session might determine the destiny of the council and the newly elected governor. However, it would not be easy to gather support for, or against, any decision regarding the Nineveh Provincial council taken into account the complexity on this issue.
Public Offices Are for Sale in Iraq
Most of the political figures who are involving in this rivalry over the position of the Nineveh-Governor accused one another of bribing the provincial council members, or buying their votes, in favor of certain candidates.
These accusations pushed Iraqi Parliament to formally ask Nineveh provincial council to postpone the governor election until the federal court complete its investigations on the bribery allegations. However, the council did not wait and elected Marid.
Selling or buying public offices is not limited on the Nineveh Province. There have been also several allegations about the same issue in Iraqi Parliament. MPs from various blocs talked about selling or buying positions for the head of parliament’s committees.
The way this illegal trade takes place is different from position to a position. For this governor-election, the political parties offered money to the provincial council members to vote for a certain candidates, according to some media reports.
Local news outlet Al-Hl reported from a local official, that some political figures paid 250,000 USD to each Nineveh’s provincial-council members who agreed to sell their votes; “they received half of the money ahead of the session to elect the governor, and they will receive the rest after the election would take place,” according to the report.
However, former Nineveh Governor Atheil al-Nujefi, who was Governor when ISIS invaded the province in 2014, in his Twitter account stated, “Several million dollars plus the positon of Kirkuk Governor is the price of Nineveh Governor,” referring to “shady deals” some politicians managed to broker in the last moment.
Implications of the Governor-Election
How all these disputes affect Iraq and Nineveh is not a difficult question for Iraqis who are familiar with this kind of power-struggle. In the national level, Iraqi parliament will get overwhelmed for weeks with this new layer of political rivalry, which is not supposed to surpass Nineveh’s border. But this is nothing compared to what is expected in Mosul and other towns of Nineveh, which are still too far from recovering the ISIS-war destruction.
In the Nineveh level, this division will further widen the gap between ordinary people and the governing elites. Local Nineveh people perceive Marid as a PMF’s governor, so the governor election would increase the level of their paranoia against the PMF forces, secured the province with other Iraqi forces.
The polarization will probably create some gaps for the ISIS’ insurgents who are actively operating in several places of the province. During the governor-election chess-game, it was reported that the insurgents were setting fire to some rural farmlands in Makhmour, southeast of Nineveh.
Federal government leaders, including PM Abdul Mahdi, President Barham Salah, and Parliament Speaker Halbosi are supposed to help defusing the tension between the rival groups in Nineveh and come up with a compromise solution, considering the Nineveh’s terrible need for security stability and public services.
The federal leaders would be able to defuse the tension as long as they keep the same distance from all rival political factions. Otherwise, they just fuel the tension and further destabilize the province.