Kurdistan political parties divided by controversial parliamentary election disputes

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Political parties in the Kurdistan Region have started negotiations regarding the parliamentary elections. On Tuesday, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) met with the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and the Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal), marking an initiative among the political parties for this year’s controversial elections.

The term of the Kurdistan Region’s parliament is four years. The fifth term came to an end on November 6, 2022. Nevertheless, the parliamentary elections were not held on time. Leading to the parliament of the Kurdistan Region to extend its term by one year last year.

However, the extension law states that parliamentary elections should take place this year.

Parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan Region were delayed due to two major obstacles. Firstly, the need for an amendment to the electoral law. Secondly, the reactivation of the electoral commission.

The Kurdistan Region’s electoral law

Last year, political parties in the Kurdistan Region met several times to amend the electoral law, but no final agreement was reached. A controversial article in the law deals with voting constituencies.

Article 9 of the law considers the entire Kurdistan Region to be a single constituency. According to some political parties, this article should be amended to a multi-constituency system similar to Iraqi elections which divide the Region into four constituencies.

The parties calling for the multi-constituency electoral system include the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Change Movement (Gorran), the New Generation, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and the Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal). The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which holds the majority of parliament seats, initially opposed the multi-constituency system, but has since softened its stance.

The KDP spokesperson Mahmud Mohammed said on Tuesday that the party does not object to the Region being divided up into four constituencies.

Minority seats are another controversial issue in the Region. Article 36 of the Kurdistan Region’s electoral law specifies that 11 seats are reserved for Christian, Turkmen, and Armenian minorities.

The Region’s political parties, except the KDP, demand that these seats be reviewed during the amendment of the electoral law.

In the case of a multi-constituency electoral system, they suggest that four of the 11 minority seats should be reserved for Sulaimani province. Alternatively, they suggest reducing minorities’ seats to seven. However, the KDP strongly opposes any change in minorities’ seats.

The re-activation of the electoral commission

The Kurdistan Region’s Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission (IHERC) has nine members. Their terms in office expired more than three years ago. Assuming those new members will continue to serve for another five years, the Kurdistan Parliament should have given them confidence. As a result of disagreements among the parties on how to re-activate the commission, Parliament has not taken any action in this regard.

Previously, the KDP had three members in the commission, the PUK and Gorran had two members each, and the KIU and Komal had one member each. However, there is now a difference of opinion among the parties, some of which want independent judges to serve as members of the commission instead of political members.

Despite the parties not yet reaching an agreement on how reactivating the commission should be accomplished, the new commission will need six months to prepare for elections, which have yet to be scheduled.

 

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