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Divided over Kurdistan elections: PUK pushes for September, KDP before May

By Rudaw 19/1/2018
Divided over Kurdistan elections: PUK pushes for September, KDP before May
The commission has said that they will be ready to hold the Kurdistan elections in April. Photo: Rudaw TV
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The ruling parties of the Kurdistan Region whose government suffered a blow when three parties withdrew from the coalition are now in a row regarding the date for Kurdish elections.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are now the only two remaining parties from what was called a broad-based coalition government. And now, the two main parties who have ruled the Kurdistan Region since its foundation after the First Gulf War of 1991 disagree about the date for the next KRG elections.

“We prefer it to be held before the Iraqi elections, because we will be happy to see a high turnout,” Khasraw Goran, the head of the KDP election office, told Rudaw.

Iraqi elections are scheduled for May 12, pending the approval of the Iraqi parliament.

Khasraw Goran argued that if the regional and federal elections were held in a row it will result in a low turnout. Other concerns he listed were the high temperatures in the summer and the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims observe fasting.

Ramadan is from mid-May to mid-June.

The PUK is pushing for elections to be held on its stated time in September, four months after the Iraqi elections.

The Kurdish parliament in late October postponed parliamentary and presidential elections which were scheduled to take place on November 1 last year by eight months, a fact noted by a senior PUK official.

“We want the elections on time, September, as it was set,” Farid Asasard, a member of the PUK leadership council told Rudaw, adding that they do not support a proposal to set the date anytime earlier.

Bryar Sharif, the spokesperson for the PUK election office, also said that they want elections on time in September, while explaining that the elections commission can use the period between now and then to “clean the voter list.”

He said that the Kurdistan Region may commit a “mistake” by rushing the elections; something he said will not yield good results for the election process.

Mala Bakhtiyar, a senior PUK official, earlier this month told Rudaw that they may lose somewhere between 10 to 15 percent of their votes due the fall of the oil-rich Kirkuk, a stronghold of the party where some of its elements are accused of cooperating the handover of the diverse province to the Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi on October 16. Such elements deny the accusations, but the party has opened an investigation into the matter.

KDP has publicly accused the PUK elements of “treason” for the events of Kirkuk.

PUK currently has 18 out of the 111 seats in the Kurdistan parliament.

Gorran, Kurdistan’s second-largest party, as well the smaller Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and the Islamic Group (Komal) all have withdrawn from the KRG coalition government in late-December and mid-January. They have called for elections on time, on the condition that the voter record is cleared from duplicate names, or names of dead people.

“We, as Gorran, always insisted that elections be held on time,” Zmnako Jalal, from the election office of the party said.

As well as calling on the election commission clean the voter record, he demanded for the Kurdistan Region to use smart technology to conduct the elections, similar to the system Iraq announced it will be using.

The elections commission announced earlier this month that the process of cleaning the voter registration was to be finished this month with an official advocating for the removal of some 100,000 repeated names or those of the deceased.

Gorran separately held two meetings with Komal and the KIU this week, during which the three parties have expressed support for holding elections in a free and fair manner.

PM Nechirvan Barzani, who is from the KDP, has already held two meetings with the election commission to set the date. He told reporters this week that the KRG will meet with the parliament and the election commission to make a decision regarding the date.

Shirwan Zirar, the spokesperson for the election body, said that they have expressed their willingness to hold elections, but also explained that they need time and a $23 million budget.

Rudaw earlier reported that the commission was ready to hold the elections in April.

The Kurdish parliament in late-October 2017 decided to postpone the election that was initially scheduled for November 1, mainly because of Iraq’s military incursion into disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, such as Kirkuk that fell to the Iraqi forces on October 16.
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