By Ali Jawad
Iraqi Turkmen have named their own candidate for the governorship of Kirkuk days after Baghdad unilaterally appointed Rakan Saeed, a former deputy governor, to the post, Iraq’s Turkmen High Commission said Friday.
On Tuesday, Baghdad appointed Saeed as new provincial governor of Kirkuk.
The post had remained vacant since mid-September, when Iraqi lawmakers voted to dismiss the previous governor, Najmiddin Karim.
Karim’s dismissal was prompted by an earlier decision by Kirkuk’s provincial council to include the oil-rich province in last month’s illegitimate referendum on Kurdish regional independence.
Notably, Saeed’s appointment earlier this week came only one day after Iraqi forces moved into Kirkuk city, where they assumed control of the city’s main government headquarters.
Baghdad’s unilateral appointment of a new governor was met with criticism by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a component of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
“Kirkuk’s current [i.e., Baghdad-appointed] governor operates as little more than a proxy,” Aso Mamand, the PUK’s main officer for Kirkuk, told reporters at the time.
He added: “Only the PUK has the authority to appoint governors of Kirkuk -- and will do so shortly.”
On Friday, Iraq’s Turkmen entered the fray, with the Turkmen High Commission naming Iraqi-Turkmen MP Niyazi Oglu as its own nominee for the governorship.
According to commission member Fawzi Akram, Iraq has not had a Turkmen provincial governor since before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country.
Akram told Anadolu Agency on Friday that Iraqi Turkmen in recent years had submitted several proposals for fairly dividing official posts in Kirkuk between Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds.
“Kirkuk must be fairly administered by all sectors of society,” he said. “Decision-making must be shared, not dominated by a single party.”