Parliamentary elections prompt diplomatic visits: Barzani to Iran, Talabani to US

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — The contentious matter of the Kurdistan parliamentary elections has prompted Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani and President of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Bafel Talabani to visit Iran and the United States, respectively. Their aim is to involve crucial regional and international stakeholders in resolving the electoral impasse in Kurdistan.

As discussions continue regarding the delay of Kurdistan’s parliamentary elections, Kurdish leaders are accelerating efforts to reach a decision. After gaining support from Iraqi political parties in Baghdad, President Nechirvan Barzani is now heading to Iran to discuss the election process with top officials in Tehran.

President Barzani is scheduled to visit Iran on Sunday for meetings with Iranian officials, according to a source familiar with the matter, speaking to Zoom News. The Kurdistan parliamentary elections will be a significant topic of discussion during the visit.

President Barzani, who also serves as the deputy leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), is leveraging his authority as Kurdistan’s President to garner backing from regional powers. His aim is to either delay elections or overturn the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court’s decision regarding the removal of 11 minority quota seats in the Kurdistan Parliament, a move that led the KDP to announce a boycott of the elections.

According to the PUK media, Bafel Talabani will also visit the United States this week for key meetings with top officials from the Department of State, Congress, and think tanks. This is seen as a crucial step in determining the PUK’s position regarding the conduct of the elections, which have been postponed multiple times due to political tensions.

In February 2024, the Iraqi Court declared the minority seats in the Kurdistan Parliament “unconstitutional,” leading to the termination of these 11 reserved seats—a move favored by the PUK which previously asserted that the 11 seats would ultimately benefit the KDP, its long-standing rival in the region.

The decision to abolish the quota system and partition the Kurdistan Region into four constituencies prompted the KDP to boycott the election process. Subsequently, the KDP has utilized all its political influence and relations to delay or overturn the Court’s rulings.

However, the PUK firmly opposes any delay in the elections.

In response to rumors after Barzani’s visit to Baghdad last week, the PUK warned against “authoritarian efforts” to postpone the elections, stating they would take legal action if necessary.

Following President Barzani’s visit to Baghdad, PUK President Bafel Talabani met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. Their discussion, as per the Prime Minister’s office statement, emphasized the need for ongoing constructive dialogues among parties and strategies to turn challenges into opportunities for all Iraqis, omitting any mention of elections.

President Barzani’s visit to Iran and the President of the PUK’s visit to the US are expected to spark conclusive developments regarding the elections. These visits underscore the involvement of influential regional and international stakeholders in the electoral process.

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