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Sunni Factions Seek Alliances With Kurds, Shiites Ahead of Iraqi Elections

Sunni political parties in Iraq have announced plans to build cross-sectarian alliances with the country's Shiites and Kurdish factions as the country prepares for general elections next year.

Sunni leader Raad Dahlaki, who is also a member of the immigration committee at the Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw Thursday that the new alliance will have international backing and support from Arab countries to secure "large participation" of "all forces" in the political process in Iraq.

Dahalki said the alliance will not be based on religious or sectarian affiliations as it will include factions from all political and religious spectrums.

Since 2005, as Iraq held its first relatively free elections the three main groups in Iraq, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, have run for seats in the parliament on separate tickets with voters casting their ballots often along sectarian and religious lines.

Post-election alliances have been formed in the past especially between the Shiites and the Kurds which often gave the Kurds a king-maker role after elections.

But strained relations between Erbil and Baghdad since last elections in 2014, have made the prospect of such an alliance increasingly bleak as the main Kurdish faction, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has sought to boycott the Iraqi elections this year all together.

"The Sunnis are in favor of postponement of provincial elections since not all the territories have been liberated (from ISIS) yet and the displaced people are still to return to their homes," Dahlki said referring to vital provincial elections later this year which will determine the local governments and governing councils in Iraq's 19 provinces.

The Iraqi electoral committee has said it will not be able to carry out "fair and free" elections in Kirkuk and Mosul provinces due to extraordinary circumstances of war and large scale displacement of people. Kirkuk's provincial council has rejected the postponement and said the province is capable of holding elections.

Dahlki said the provincial elections could take place simultaneously with the parliament elections next year.

Iraq's Sunni leaders have in the past shown support for an autonomous region in Nineveh with Mosul as its capital, which they have long been championing.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has openly supported the formation of a Sunni region but Erbil also demands the return of Kurdish territories in Nineveh in case of a "Yes" vote at a future referendum to determine the status of the contested territories.

Kurdish President Masoud Barzani has said Peshmerga forces will not enter Mosul city as the operation advances, but he has publicly announced that neither will the Peshmerga retreat from Kurdish areas that they recaptured from ISIS prior to Mosul offensive last October.

The Nineveh Plains, with Mosul as its provincial capital, is home to Iraq's largest mixture of populations with different ethnic and religious backgrounds. In most of these villages Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Christians and many other groups have lived together for centuries. The area also has been one of the most volatile regions in Iraq where rival groups share territorial claims.

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