The flags of the main two Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in an election campaign. Photo Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— As Iraq braces for the upcoming general elections, probably held in April next year, Kurdish parties still seem increasingly divided on participation in the votes which are expected to reshuffle the parliament and provincial councils across the country in 2018.
The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has reaffirmed it will consider a boycott of the parliamentary elections, a halfhearted position which has so far been met with internal Kurdish opposition in the country including from KDP’s strategic ally, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
“We are still part of a country which is called Iraq. Therefore we need to see first what we will achieve by boycotting the elections. We have not held the referendum [for independence], neither have we separated from Iraq, why would we make such a decision,” said Saadi Ahmed Pira, a senior PUK official.
Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said last week that “Baghdad’s failure” to preserve Kurdish and Sunni interests over the past years, has made future participation in general elections doubtful.
“There is a possibility we might not participate in Iraq’s next parliamentary elections,” Barzani said in an interview with Al Arabiya Hadath TV last week.
“What has Baghdad done to ensure Iraq is united? What has Baghdad done for the Kurds and their interests? What has it offered the Sunnis? The result of this policy is the greatest threat on the integrity of Iraq,” Barzani said.
The KDP’s defying position follows Baghdad’s decision last year to remove dozens of high Kurdish officials in the Iraqi capital including the finance minister, military chief of staff, deputy prime minister, deputy interior minister, deputy foreign minister, director of intelligence, general command of the government and parliament, along with a number of other important ministerial positions, many of them held by KDP members.
The KDP has since refused to fill the positions and called the removals unconstitutional and aimed at undermining KDP posture in the country.
The party however has not ruled out joining in the elections and said much will depend on how referendum talks continue both in Kurdistan Region and in relation with Baghdad.
“We have not ruled out whether we take part or boycott the votes. We will see how political process and the question of referendum will evolve,” KDP official Khasro Goran said.
The KDP has said the Kurdistan Region will hold a referendum on independence before the end of this year.
Goran said the KDP has initially registered with the Iraqi High Electoral Committee For Elections to take part in the next year’s elections.