Politicians in Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdish region delay elections

Elections were last held in the region four years ago

Iraqi Kurds wave flags of Iraqi Kurdistan during a demonstration outside the UN Office in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous region, on October 21, 2017, protesting against the escalating crisis with Baghdad. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED
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The Parliament in Iraq's autonomous northern Kurdish region voted on Sunday to delay elections and extend its term by a year amid wider national political paralysis.

The region last held elections four years ago and people had been due to vote this month.

Disagreements between its two major parties have led to politicians staying until a new parliament is elected in late 2023.

Eighty of 111 representatives voted for the measure, the regional parliament said, with members of the opposition abstaining.

The delay is the result of disputes between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) over electoral constituencies.

But it also is part of a broader power struggle between the Parliament's two biggest parties, said Shivan Fazil, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

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The KDP, which controls the regional government, has challenged the PUK's claim for the presidency of Iraq, which by convention is held by a member of Iraq's Kurdish minority.

The PUK has held the largely symbolic post since 2005.

"Lack of co-operation and consensus between the two parties at the federal level … has increasingly led to a lack of co-operation and consensus" in Kurdistan, too, Mr Fazil said.

The parliament has extended its term several times in recent decades over political disagreements, and in the 1990s due to fighting between two rival clans, the KDP-affiliated Barzanis and the PUK-affiliated Talabanis.

The UN envoy to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, warned this week that "the political fallout" of not conducting timely elections and "neglecting basic democratic principles will bear a high cost".

"Monopolising power breeds instability," Ms Hennis-Plasschaert told the Security Council on Tuesday. "That goes for both Iraq as a whole and for the Kurdistan region."

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Kurdish officials have painted the region as a haven of stability in conflict-ridden Iraq.

It is home to several international charities, and has developed its infrastructure and projects at a faster pace than the rest of the country.

But activists and opposition figures have decried corruption, arbitrary arrests and intimidation of protesters.

The region has also been caught in the crosshairs of geopolitical conflict among neighbouring countries, having recently been the target of strikes by Iran and Turkey.

On September 28, Iran struck positions of Iranian-Kurdish rebel groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing 14 people and wounding 58, including civilians.

Updated: October 09, 2022, 10:27 PM