Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party to boycott regional elections

KDP says it will not comply with ruling issued by Iraq’s top court to end political deadlock over polls

Members of the Kurdish Peshmerga security forces parade with a giant Kurdish flag in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. AFP
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The Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two main parties in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, said on Monday that it will not take part in elections to the local parliament in protest against recent rulings by Iraq’s top court to end a political deadlock that delayed the vote.

A decree issued by the Kurdistan Region's President Nechirvan Barzani set June 10 as the date for the long-overdue parliamentary election.

The election was supposed to be held in October 2022 but was delayed by disagreements, mainly between the KDP and its rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The KDP and PUK then agreed to extend the parliament's term for a year so they could continue talks over issues such as amending the elections law and the sharing of tax and oil revenue.

But in May last year the Iraq Federal Supreme Court ruled that all decisions made by the regional parliament after its extension were null and void, including one to reactivate the region’s electoral commission to oversee the elections.

Last month, the court ruled that the Kurdistan region's parliament should have 100 members instead of 111, and that elections to the body should be overseen by the national electoral commission.

The ruling also stipulates that Kurdistan should be divided into four constituencies instead of the single-constituency system adopted in previous elections. The PUK is in favour of the four-constituency system.

“We see it as in the interests of our people and our homeland not to comply with unconstitutional decisions and a system imposed from outside and against the will of the Kurdistan people and their constitutional institutions,” the KDP’s political bureau said in a statement announcing its intention to boycott the vote.

The KDP “will not partake in an illegal and unconstitutional election under an imposed system”, it said.

It called on partners in Baghdad within the ruling State Administration Coalition to "uphold its national responsibilities of implementing the constitution and meet all the political and administrative agreements of forming the current Iraqi government".

"Otherwise we can't continue in the [country's] political process," it warned.

The UN mission in Iraq called on "all parties to work in the interest of the people, and thus towards solutions, rather than another prolonged impasse".

"The holding of the 10 June KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] is essential," it said in a statement.

US ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski said she was "concerned" by the KDP's decision.

"We urge the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure that elections are free, fair, transparent and credible,” Ms Romanowski said on social media platform X.

"All the people of Iraqi Kurdistan Region should have a voice in determining their future."

The region has its own government and president. The provinces of Erbil and Dahuk are under the control of the KDP, while the PUK controls Sulaymaniyah.

The move by the KDP leadership could be seen as a political manoeuvre to return to the old law, independent political analyst Kadhim Yawar told The National.

"It is as if the party is saying 'I will take part in the election if it will be under the previous law'," Mr Yawar said. "It is a conditional participation," he added.

He believes the elections will be postponed to give the parties more time to prepare themselves for the new election system.

The Kurdish region officially gained autonomy after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, formalising a de facto reality that had held since 1992, when Iraqi government forces withdrew from the region following their defeat in the 1991 Gulf War.

Its autonomy was strengthened and recognised in Iraq's 2005 constitution.

Since then, the region has been at loggerheads with the federal authorities in Baghdad on a number of issues, including rights to develop and market oil and gas, the region’s share in the federal budget and Kurdish claims to lands outside the region.

The three-province region has also seen political infighting between the KDP and PUK, who have a delicate power-sharing arrangement.

The PUK spokesman said in a statement that his party is committed to holding the elections on June 10.

Updated: March 18, 2024, 9:43 PM