Electoral campaign materials are being cleared from Erbil city streets. Photo: Mohammed Shwani / Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish opposition parties performed poorly in the May 12 Iraqi election because voters think they are no different from the ruling parties, merely interested in obtaining power and not reforming the system, according to a Kurdish political scientist.
Alan Mumtaz Noory, a professor of political science at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), believes a mixture of fraud and voter disillusionment cost the opposition at the ballot box.
“Elections in Iraq and Kurdistan Region have led to a corrupt government without accountability. Insomuch as the opposition has tried to obtain the cake, it hasn’t attempted to revise this type of governance. The majority of those dissatisfied with the conditions aren’t ready to vote. They might have voted to Gorran or other opposition parties, but now they don’t believe in them,” Noory told Rudaw.
Iraq’s May 12 election brought a number of surprises. The Kurdistan Region’s opposition parties saw their share of the vote fall dramatically, while the two traditional parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), saw their share rally.
The opposition parties insist the election was rigged against them. They demanded a rerun of the vote and a manual recount in the Region and the disputed territories.
The Iraqi parliament heeded their complaints, agreeing to scrap the votes of IDPs, Kurdish security forces, and the diaspora, and ordering a manual recount of 100 percent of votes.
The parliament also dissolved the commissioner’s council of the independent electoral commission, replacing it with nine appointed judges. The commission, however, has vowed to fight back, appealing the decision. The final decision rests with the federal court.
“The electoral process of May 12 has been affected by two factors: unlimited fraud and the incredulity of the people of Kurdistan of the opposition,” Noory said.
“The main reason Gorran’s vote decreased was it entered the game with the intention of obtaining a piece of the cake.
“The opposition’s participation with the aim of getting a parcel is the epitome of the opposition’s corruption. Your participation in a government founded on corruption is merely to get a piece of the cake,” he said.
“The opposition and the rulers are two types of small and big mafia,” he added.
Noory believes boycotters are Iraq and the Kurdistan Region’s last hope.
“The people who didn’t turn out to vote are the thirstiest people for political change in Iraq and Kurdistan. The only hope left for the people of Iraq and Kurdistan is the people who didn’t vote,” Noory said.
He compared the election’s low turnout with that of the Kurdistan independence referendum.
Kardo Mohammed, a Gorran official, believes the fault lies with those who rigged the election, not the inherent failures of the opposition parties themselves.
“There is no indication or proof that the votes of the opposition parties have decreased. The fraud is so rampant that it isn’t possible to determine why the opposition’s votes have decreased,” Mohammed told Rudaw.
Gorran’s seats fell from 9 to 5, losing them Sulaimani province to the PUK. Gorran insists the PUK rigged the election alongside the KDP.
Gorran’s relationship with both the ruling parties is fraught. In 2015, the KDP prevented the speaker of the Kurdish parliament, a Gorran member, and Gorran ministers from entering Erbil.
The PUK allegedly attacked Gorran’s headquarters on the night of the election.
“No party has been able to transcend the program and aims of Gorran. Gorran hasn’t reneged on its aims and program with the people of Kurdistan for a vacuum to form that would see an alternative to Gorran,” Mohammed said, rejecting the claim that New Generation and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) had split Gorran’s vote.
The passing of Nawshirwan Mustafa, Gorran’s founder, however, has a left a gap, Mohammed said.
“We are the stage at which we have to fill Kak Nawshirwan’s gap through institutional work and revising the organization of the institutions,” Mohammed admitted.
He dismissed recent claims the party plan to create an armed militia, insisting it believes in civic struggle.