Thursday, August 29, 2013

Iraq’s Kurdish Elections To Go Ahead In September Despite Flawed Voter Rolls

The last barrier to Kurdish parliamentary elections was recently removed. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and some of the opposition parties were complaining about outdated voter roles being used. The Election Commission said that they could go through the lists, but that would delay the vote for two months. Instead, the lists decided to hold the balloting on time, which will be in September. The parties therefore decided to maintain the status quo rather than pushing through a much needed reform.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is finally cleared to hold its parliamentary vote in September 2013. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Change List complained to the Election Commission that thousands of names on the voter roles belonged to dead people or were repeated. For example, they claimed that around 90,000 peopled had died in Kurdistan since March 2009, but that only 440 names were struck from the voter rolls, while a PUK member told the press that 10,000 deceased people voted in the last regional elections in 2009. They were worried that this could be used for ballot fraud. The Commission replied that it could go through the lists, but that would mean that the voting would have to be delayed until November 2013. Neither party was happy with that response, but decided to hold the elections on time. That means the parliamentary vote will occur on September 21. Holding up the event would have caused more controversy in the region. In July, the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) agreed to extend Kurdish President Massoud Barzani’s term two more years. (1) The official reason was that his leadership was needed to ensure the passage of the draft constitution through the parliament. The real reason was that Kurdish laws states that he can only stay in office for two years, but he did not want to go, so the ruling parties simply agreed that he could maintain his position until the laws were changed, and he could get elected again. The opposition parties were outraged by this seeming coup. Given that background the parties did not want to be accused of standing in the way of democracy anymore. They thought it was more important that the voting go ahead despite whatever reservations they might have had.

Kurdistan is going to have parliamentary elections as planned in September, but the process seems flawed. There appears to be major problems with the voter rolls, which opens up the possibility for cheating. The Election Commission said it could try to clear the lists, but it would take time. Given the fact that the presidential elections were delayed for two years in a backroom deal that violated the law, the PUK and Change List decided to drop their objections, and go ahead with the balloting next month. When they do happen the results will likely maintain the status quo. The KDP faces no real challenges in its strongholds, while the PUK and Change List will battle it out in Sulaymaniya. If there are reports of ballot stuffing or other manipulations the flawed voter rolls might have played a role. It’s rather shocking that some of the parties would agree to let this issue go when there was a possible solution. Instead, it will be business as usual in the KRG come September.


1. Awene, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, “Iraqi Kurdish parties’ said deal prior to extension of regional president’s term,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 7/2/13


Ahmed, Hevidar, “Ambiguities over Voter Numbers Remain a Hurdle For Kurdistan Polls,” Rudaw, 7/31/13
- “Kurdistan Polls Still Elusive Over Voter Lists,” Rudaw, 8/19/13
- “PUK-KDP at Odds over Voter Registration Lists in Kurdistan Region,” Rudaw, 8/9/13

AIN, “KRG identifies 21, Nov for provincial elections,” 8/7/13

Awene, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, “Iraqi Kurdish parties’ said deal prior to extension of regional president’s term,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 7/2/13

Buratha News, “Barham Salih: the holding of elections is important and undue delay,” 7/31/13

Chomani, Kamal, “Kurdish region no longer possesses a legal president,” World Bulletin, 7/2/13

Iraq High Election Commission, “IHEC suggest to run both the Parliamentary and Provincial Council Elections of Kurdistan Region of Iraq in one day,” 8/25/13

Al Rayy, “Election Commission rejects the request of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to reconsider the voter registers,” 8/20/13

Shafaq News, “Change movement give up its demand of reconsidering voter’s register,” 8/26/13
- “IHEC demands to postpone Kurdistan’s Parliament elections,” 7/18/13

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