The Kurdistan region is set to hold elections for its parliament on September 30. Early voting already took place on September 28 for the security forces. The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are likely to maintain their monopoly on power since the opposition are weak and divided.
In the May 2018 national elections the PUK and KDP maintain their hold over the four provinces of Kurdistan. The KDP won 10 of 11 seats in Dohuk, 8 of 15 seats in Irbil, and 1 seat in Sulaymaniya, while the PUK picked up 2 seats in Irbil and 8 of 18 seats in Sulaymaniya. That was a total of 29 of 44 seats, or 65.9% of the parliamentarians. The opposition parties Gorran, New Generation, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, the Kurdistan Islamic Group, and the Democracy and Justice Alliance were hoping to do much better, but the fact that they all ran separately rather than united as originally planned meant they split their vote. The fragility of those parties was shown when Barham Salah, left the PUK and founded Democracy and Justice, but when it did so poorly he rejoined the Patriotic Union and is now its candidate for Iraq’s president. The opposition also accused the PUK of widespread cheating, which was confirmed when a recount of the results led to the dismissal of ballots in Sulaymaniya and Kirkuk. Fears of a repeat of those tactics persist. The PUK and KDP political machines are strong, the opposition remains weak, and the threat of fraud continues.
There are only two expected changes to come from the voting. First, the KDP might pick up more seats since the PUK has faltered since the passing of its founder Jalal Talabani. It has been wracked by internal disputes as shown by Salah’s quitting and rejoining. Second, the KRG parliament basically ceased to operate in 2015 after President Massoud Barzani refused to step down when his term was up, dismissed the speaker that came from Change and unilaterally dismissed all the party’s ministers. Now that body will finally go back to work. It’s yet to be seen what stance the opposition will have when the body is reconvened because they are still bitter about the KDP and PUK’s rule yet don’t have the means to change anything.
International Crisis Group, “Iraqi Kurdistan’s Regional Elections Test a Brittle Status Quo,” 9/28/18
Al Jazeera, “Low turnout expected as Iraq’s Kurds prepare to vote,” 9/29/18
Menmy, Dana Taib, “Kurdish opposition warns fraud, intimidation to taint upcoming election,” Al Monitor, 9/28/18
NINA, “Change Movement: We Agree With The PUK To Postpone The Elections In Kurdistan Region,” 8/29/18
Rudaw, “KRG security, Peshmerga forces cast their ballot for a new parliament,” 9/28/18
- “UPDATE: PUK nominates Barham Salih as sole candidate for Iraq presidency,” 9/19/18