Special voting for the Kurdistan Regional Government’s third parliamentary elections began July 23, 2009. Phesmerga, patients, and prisoners were eligible to vote in this early balloting, while the regular election will be held on July 25. Kurdistan is using a closed list system where voters only get to pick from lists, not individual candidates. The system favors large parties, because smaller ones have to run candidates across the entire region in order to get enough votes to get seats.
The Change List and the Reform and Services List are considered two of the main challengers to the rule of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) that have ruled the region since 1992. How the local election plays out might have larger implications for Iraq overall. Both the Change and Reform lists said they would not run with the ruling Kurdish parties in the January 2010 parliamentary vote unless they dramatically changed their practices. That division could play into the hands of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Maliki wants to come out of the 2010 elections assured of maintaining his position as Prime Minister. The KDP-PUK alliance is set against that. If the Change List wins a number of seats in the Kurdish parliament Maliki may reach out to them, and ask them to run together in 2010. The Kurdish Alliance in parliament may be the dealmakers in the formation of any new ruling coalition. Maliki will try all manners to lesson their influence as its likely that he will come out of the January vote with only a plurality of votes as he did in the 2009 provincial elections, and therefore will need to bring in other parties to keep the premiership. Working with the Change List may be one small step in accomplishing this.
For a rundown of the parties and candidates participation in the Kurdish elections see:
Campaigning for Kurdistan’s Regional Parliament Begins
Aswat al-Iraq, “Massive participation from Peshmerga forces in polling stations in Arbil,” 7/23/09
Carpenter, J. Scott and Ali, Ahmed, “Iraqi Kurds Go to the Polls: Is Change Possible?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 7/23/09
Kazimi, Nibras, “Iraq: Alliances Galore,” Hudson Institute, 7/17/09
Taha, Yaseen, “kurds fear weakness as a result of new disunity,” Niqash, 7/22/09
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