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Ballot Fever:
New Kurdish Elections Announced, While Problems From Last Elections Remain

Saman Omer
Just as one lot of electioneering ends in Iraq, another begins in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a date for the long-delayed regional ballot has been set. But already, problems are mounting up.
24.05.2018  |  Sulaymaniyah
Election campaigning in Iraqi Kurdistan will go on...and on. (photo: حمه سور )
Election campaigning in Iraqi Kurdistan will go on...and on. (photo: حمه سور )

As campaigning for Iraq’s federal elections was coming to an end, the prime minister of the semi-autonomous, northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, clearly had not had enough: Nechirvan Barzani announced that the region’s long-delayed provincial elections would be held on September 30 this year.

Voters in Iraqi Kurdistan have their own parliament, laws and prime minister and these elections had been delayed since November 2017. This means election campaigning will continue in Iraqi Kurdistan for another four months.

Elections are not just a political process. They are also a moral one.

But already there are issues. For one thing, local parties are still disputing the results of the federal elections, held earlier this month.

All of his party’s efforts are currently going into correcting the fraudulent election results this month, Ribawar Hamad, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Islamic Group, told NIQASH.

“Elections here are just a farce and we are not going to go through a similar process again,” he said.

A spokesperson from the Change movement, which is also protesting this month’s election results, says that nothing has changed when it comes to regional elections: They still insist that the region’s president should be chosen by the region’s parliament, an intractable problem that saw the Kurdish parliament shut down for almost two years.

Other local critics have said that the two political parties that won the most votes on May 12 – the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK - are only calling for regional elections now because they feel more confident about the outcome. Had they lost on May 12, they would not be so enthusiastic about this new set of voting.

Others called for this Kurdish government to be dissolved after the events of October 2017, says Samir Hawrami, a spokesperson for Qubad Talabani, a deputy prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan and senior PUK politician. “Setting a date for the elections responds to that,” Hawrami told NIQASH. “Elections are necessary now and they must be held,” he argued.

At the same time, “election fever” is going to exhaust people, says local media professor, Yahya al-Rishawi, who lectures at the University of Sulaymaniyah. “It’s going to make people less enthusiastic about voting and in the end, it will distort the process.”

And as, elections expert Sargan Saleh, a lecturer at Sulaymaniyah University, points out, locals need to be very cautious in how they proceed with these regional elections. Increasingly there is distrust in the outcomes and procedures and he suggests a charter signed by all of the politicians where they promise to keep certain rules, as well as to the proposed date.

“Elections are not just a political process,” Saleh argues. “They are also a moral one.”

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