Ershad Salihi, the provincial head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) in Kirkuk, was elected as a deputy in the country’s recent general elections and said Turkmens were not concerned with election winner Ayad Allawi’s talks with Kurds over a possible coalition government.
Elected from a list of the pro-American former Prime Minister Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition, Salihi said the ITF believes they will retain all their rights no matter what kind of government is formed. “We will not allow any negotiation to take place over the Turkmen presence,” he told the Cihan news agency in Kirkuk, adding that every group in the country should believe in democracy and respect the election results.
Allawi, who led the Iraqiya coalition, won 91 seats to 89 for incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc. But both groups fell far short of the 163-seat majority needed to form a government alone, leaving a Shiite coalition including anti-American Muqtada al-Sadr known as the Iraqi National Alliance and US-allied Kurds as likely kingmakers. Allawi is now in search of partners to form a coalition where he will be the head of the executive branch again after almost five years. He had been the prime minister of the country during the term of an interim government, which was in power for less than a year until April 2005.
Al-Maliki’s bloc, on the other hand, has demanded a recount, claiming fraud. His supporters have also vowed to fight the results. The ITF has managed to win two seats in Kirkuk and three seats in Mosul, two of the cities with the largest Turkmen population in Iraq.
“We are not concerned in any way with Allawi’s talks with Kurdish officials because we have a main strategy which has its own dignity and borders. We want to sit with everyone. We can talk with every group, but there will be no negotiation over the Kirkuk issue and the Turkmen presence there. We believe we have chosen the right path,” he said. There has been a dispute over Kirkuk between the Turkmens and the Kurds focusing on which community has the majority in the oil-rich province.
Turkmens previously claimed that Kurds had been bringing Kurds from other cities to tilt the balance in their favor, planning for a possible referendum on the fate of the city.