Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Rush To Hold Provincial Elections In Kurdistan

In January 2009 fourteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces held provincial elections. Voting in Tamim province was indefinitely postponed because of the dispute over Kirkuk, while the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said Baghdad’s election law did not bind them. They said they would hold their own vote based upon their own legislation. In July 2009 a local election law was passed, and the region held balloting for their parliament, but there have been no provincial elections.

At the very beginning of January 2010 AK News reported that the Kurdish parliament would finally discuss parliamentary voting after the March 2010 national elections. This poses legal questions since the Kurdish councils’ terms expired in January 2009. In February the Kurdish parliament extended their powers until the end of 2009, but that now has passed as well. A consultant for the Kurdish speaker said that the passage of the provincial election law de facto extends the provincial councils’ terms until the actual balloting is held.

The main reason why the KRG’s parliament is in no rush to set an election date is probably because they are afraid of losing power to the new Kurdish opposition group, the Change List. In the July 2009 Kurdish parliamentary vote, the Change List took 23.75% of the vote, and did especially well in Sulaymaniya. Another opposition coalition, the Service and Reform List got 12.8% of the vote. Like everything else in Kurdistan, the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) control the governors and provincial councils. In Dohuk, the governor is from the KDP as well as 33 of the 41 seats. In Irbil, the governor is also from the KDP and they control 23 of 41 seats, and the PUK 16. Finally, in Sulaymaniya the governor and 28 of the 41 seats belong to the PUK. The KDP and PUK have been loath to share power, and prefer to co-opt and intimidate other parties. By holding off provincial elections indefinitely, they can hold onto their positions and influence.


AK News, “Only new elections can expire Provincial councils’ legal term: source,” 1/1//10

Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008

Visser, Reidar, “After Compromise on Kirkuk, Finally an Elections Law for Iraq’s Governorates,”, 9/24/08


Anonymous said...

The legal problems you refer to are the same ones that exist in relation to the Baghdad parliament which loses its legitimacy and mandate at the end of this month. Second, the delay is no different to the delays we saw in Baghdad in relation to the new election law that paved the way for national elections in March.

The KRG is in no rush to hold elections not simply because of new party Change but, rather, because it simply CAN hold them off.

Anonymous said...

Funny how in the source you provided for your comment that "the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said Baghdad’s election law did not bind them", Reidar Visser doesn't actually go into whether or not this argument holds any merit.

This is not like Visser, who usually does appraise in a meticulous and exceptional manner any constitutional or legal argument posited by any of Iraq's major actors. Was he worried he might find something he didn't like or did he find something he didn't like?

Joel Wing said...

1st I used the Visser article because it was the only one that I could remember off the top of my head that mentioned the Kurds not following the Iraqi provincial election law. I probably had some others but couldn't remember them when writing the article. He only mentioned the Kurds in passing because the focus of the article was about what was going on in Baghdad.

2nd I think the Kurdish situation is different than the one in Baghdad. The Iraqi parliament had a deadline to complete both the provincial and parliamentary election laws. As usual because of the political differences amongst the major parties these deadlines were not met, negotiations dragged on for months. When the laws were passed however, the elections were immediately set according to the time the Election Commission needed to set up the procedure. In the case of the parliamentary elections, that means that the current parliament's term will expire and some kind of caretaker government will have to be established.

In the case of the Kurds however, since the PUK and KDP control the Kurdish parliament there was no real dragged out process to get their provincial election law passed in July 09. After they passed it however, they never set a date for the vote, because the KDP and PUK don't want to have them. That's a major difference than Baghdad's.

In Baghdad they at least tried to follow a timetable, in Kurdistan it seems like the KDP & PUK will hold off the vote as long as they want to.

Anonymous said...

But that's obvious...the KRG is dominated by the PUK and KDP, with Change now in the margins. Have Change protested, called on the west, the UN and US, to pressure the KRG into holding an election soon? No.

Elections will be held in October of this year. Second, the Iraqi electoral commission itself has said it will struggle to hold national and provincial elections at the same time. The problem is that your posting fails to provide the wider context and scheme of things - you've simply called it a PUK-KDP bashing of other parties' rights and democracy, which it isn't.

Ali said...

"By holding off provincial elections indefinitely, they can hold onto their positions and influence."

This remark is telling of your lack of awareness of Iraqi and Kurdish politics. The PUK and KDP don't need elections to hold onto their positions and influence. Change hasn't quite turned out to be the party people thought it would be.

Joel Wing said...


Yes I agree Change really hasn't done much since the elections. The only thing of note I've heard about them is that they will not run as one Kurdish list in 2010 and that the PUK-KDP are harrassing their followers. Not much else.

I think they have the potential to upset the PUK-KDP relationship however. The Change List seemed to put a real scare into the PUK, and that may make the KDP re-think their alliance with them, (why stick with a party that may be in the decline?), but that's yet to be shown.

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