Friday, September 25, 2009

Will The Kurds Be Kingmakers In Iraq?

Iraq’s Kurds remain the most unified ethnosectarian voting bloc in Iraq. As the Sunnis and Shiites split up into smaller factions, the two major Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) remain largely popular amongst their constituency, and in control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the majority Kurdish regions within the disputed territories in northern Iraq.

In the January 2005 national elections, the Kurdish Alliance of the PUK and KDP won 26% of the vote, and 90% of the Kurdish electorate, which earned them 75 seats out of 275 in parliament. In the December 2005 elections they received 21% of the vote, which gave them 53 seats, making them the second largest bloc in parliament after the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. In comparison, Maliki’s State of Law List that was the big winner in the 2009 provincial elections only won 15.1% of the vote in fourteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces.

Recently they did face a challenge from the Change List that won 23% of the vote in the 2009 Kurdish elections. As the January 2010 national elections approach, the KDP and PUK are going to run together in a Kurdish Alliance again, but the Change List will compete independently. Afterward they are supposed to form one Kurdish bloc in parliament. That may not happen however as there are plenty of stories about Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki being interested in the Change List joining his State of Law coalition.

Either way, the Kurdish Alliance alone is still likely to be one of the most powerful groups in parliament, and crucial to any new government created after the 2010 vote. They will probably walk away with around 40 seats, and perhaps 50 if the Change List does follow through with their promise to become a united Kurdish front in parliament. In 2005 the Kurdish Alliance was a key component in the creation of both the governments of Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki. Since then the PUK, and especially the KDP have turned into some of the harshest critics of Maliki’s rule. In January and December 2008 they even threatened no confidence votes against the Prime Minister. With an expected 40-50 members in the new legislature, they could be the greatest impediment to Maliki returning as Iraq’s leader. Iraqi politics are in a period of flux however, so deals are still to be made before and after the 2010 election that could dramatically transform the situation. The Kurds however, are in a position to be one of the king makers in Iraqi politics.


BBC News, “Guide to Iraqi political parties,” 1/20/06

Boot, Max and West, Bing, “Iraq’s Number 1 Problem,” Los Angeles Times, 1/28/08

International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09

Katzman, Kenneth, “Iraq: Elections and New Government,” Congressional Research Service, 6/24/05

Knights, Michael, “National Implications of the Kurdish Elections,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 2009

Kurdistan Regional Government, "Electoral Commission announces final results of Kurdistan Region elections," 8/8/09

Najm, Hayder, “kurdish opposition points to potential rapproachement with Baghdad,” Niqash, 8/17/09, “Iraqi legislative election, December 2005”


Anonymous said...

Great stuff, thanks for keeping up-to-date.

Wladimir van Wilgenburg said...

Change wants a separate list, not unified Kurdish bloc. They say their goals are different.

Joel Wing said...

The report I read said that the Change List will run independently, but then has agreed to join the PUK and KDP to form a Kurdish bloc in parliament. That all depends on the Change List not getting talked into joining a larger Arab list like Maliki's State of Law however.

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