Contradictory day for Iraqi Kurds

September 27, 2013 at 11:40 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Contradictory day for Iraqi Kurds

Last week’s smooth elections in the Iraqi Kurdish Region contrasted with the security problems in the rest of the country, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad

Contradictory day for Iraqi Kurds
An Iraqi Kurdish woman casts her ballot during a regional election in Irbil (photo: Reuters)

Last Saturday was a clear example of the contradictory situation in Iraq, where there is security in the three northern provinces of the Iraqi Kurdish Region and insecurity in central and southern Iraq.

The three northern provinces took part in the general elections of the Kurdistan Region without any security violations or violence, while an attack in Baghdad’s Sadr City led to 78 people being killed and more than 120 wounded.

Tens of others were killed or wounded in other parts of Baghdad and many other provinces, especially in Diyala, 90km north-east of Baghdad, and Mosul about 400km north of Baghdad.

According to the country’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), 74 per cent of the 2.6 million registered voters participated in the Kurdish Region’s legislative elections to elect 111 members for the Kurdish parliament from 1,129 candidates, 399 female candidates among them.

The candidates came from 37 political parties and blocs. Among the 111 seats, are 11 quota seats for the Turkmens (five seats), the Christians (five seats) and the Armenians (one seat).

Unofficial results showed that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of the region’s president Masoud Barzani had come out on top, winning 36 seats, while second had been the Gouran (Change) Movement, the main opposition party in the Kurdish Region, of party leader Noshirwan Mustafa with 26 seats.

Third had been the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party (PUK) of the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the main partner in the region’s local government, with 16 seats. Then had come the Kurdistan Islamic Unity Party with 10 seats, the Islamic Group with six seats, and the Communist Party, expected to win one seat.

The final and official results will be announced by the IHEC by the end of the week or later. According to political analysts, the results should show no differences, meaning that the PUK has now lost its position as the second main Party in the Kurdish Region.

IHEC Chairperson Serbest Mustafa said that the IHEC had finished the counting process and that the ballot papers would be sent to the checking centre in Erbil. The first part of the ballot papers would then be sent to Baghdad to be entered into the database of the national elections centre, he said.

Mustafa did not accept the results published by the media, but confirmed that the official results would be announced by the IHEC.

Hiwa Mohamed, an election monitor in Erbil, told Reuters that difficulties with the voting procedure may have kept some residents from casting their votes.

“The polling stations were crowded with voters because of technical difficulties with the machines. They were supposed to extend [the voting] by an extra hour because nearly 20 per cent of people could not cast their ballots,” he said. “There was a problem with the name logs, and we blame the electoral commission for this. Most people could not find their names in the logs.”

Despite such problems, the United Nations praised the “smooth conduct” of the elections.

The elections were the region’s first since July 2009. In Sulaimaniyah, once the stronghold of the PUK, there were three seats for Gouran and only one for the PUK.

A Kurdish political analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that “people in Sulaimaniyah voted for Gouran because they were fed up with the corruption of the PUK.”

The analyst, who has been a PUK member since 1971, added that “I am sad at this end of my party, yet I am happy because the elections went smoothly, without any violations, and they succeeded.”

Saad Al-Anni, a political analyst from Baghdad, said “I expect that Gouran will now insist on being part of the region’s government, while the KDP may ask the PUK and Kurdistan Islamic Unity Party to form a coalition that will block the way in front of Gouran.”

Awaz Ahmed, a teacher from Erbil, said that “we expected the victory of the KDP for many reasons. We feel that Barzani has built our new lives. At the same time, the absence of Talabani affected the voters in Sulaimaniyah, plus the leading personalities of Gouran are from the PUK originally, having split off from it because of the corruption in the PUK.”

The next government in the Iraqi Kurdish Region will be under pressure from the ongoing war in Syria and how to manage the rising numbers of refugees. Iraqis also dream that the next government in the Region will be more cooperative with the central government in Baghdad in reducing political disputes, improving lives and enhancing security.

Until such dreams come true, however, the contradictory situation between Baghdad and Erbil is likely to continue.

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