Iraqi Kurds deadlocked over elections

Confusion surrounds the timing of legislative and presidential elections in aftermath of vote to secede from Iraq.

The Higher Election Commission election campaign is due to start on October 15 [Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images]

The Kurdish Regional Government has announced new parliamentary and presidential elections on the first of November.

According to the Iraqi Kurdish region’s Higher Election Commission, political parties have already registered their names for parliamentary elections, with the election campaign due to start on October 15.

However, officials are in contention about whether the elections will be actually held at the announced date.

Sadi Pire, a senior official and member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan politburo, told Al Jazeera that it is likely the parliamentary elections will be held next year.

“It is possible that the current government’s mandate will be extended for another year,” Pire said.

READ MORE: Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly back split from Baghdad

He cited the chaotic conditions present in the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq.

“We have more than 400,000 people that need to be repatriated after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group occupied their villages, in addition to 1.2 million Syrian refugees and IDP from south of Iraq,” Pire said. “It is very difficult now to have a clean election under these elections.”

The KRG’s last elections were held in September 2013, and run every four years.

The three main parties are the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), the PUK and Movement for Change (Gorran).

The previous elections marked the first time the KDP and the PUK ran as separate parties since the first elections in 1992.

The Kurdish National Assembly has 111 seats, and a party needs to secure a majority of 56 seats or more.

General Mohammed Sabir of the Peshmerga said that the High Electoral Commission has not indicated that the elections will be postponed.

“Right now there’s a lot of chaos and problems with Baghdad and regional governments,” he told Al Jazeera.

“There is a possibility that the elections will get postponed but there hasn’t been anything definitive yet.”

The confusion surrounding the timing of the elections comes in the aftermath of an independence referendum last month, which received an overwhelming support of 93 percent of votes.

However, Iraq’s central government in Baghdad has decried the non-binding referendum as unconstitutional and refused to recognise the result.

Furthermore, it responded by imposing a number of punitive measures, such as banning international flights to Erbil Airport in the Kurdish region and halting foreign currency transfers to the northern region.

According to Iraqi Kurdish researcher Abdulla Hawez, the government in Baghdad is likely not to interfere in the elections, unless they take place in the disputed territories in the northern region, such as Kirkuk.

“The central government has limited options given the weakness of the Iraqi state at the moment,” Hawez told Al Jazeera, mentioning the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL, known as ISIS) group and the growing intra-Shia rivalry.

As for the presidential elections, a big question remains over the fate of the current president, Massud Barzani, who has held the role since 2005. Barzani, whose mandate finished in 2013 but was reelected by parliament for a further two years, still has publicly announced in 2016 that he will not run for re-election, but still holds the position.

Hawez said that the question is not about who will run for the presidential elections, but whether they will happen in the first place.

“October 3 was the last day for a candidate to register for the presidential elections, but only one condition from the Gorran party has done so,” he said.

READ MORE: A look into Iraq\’s disputed Kirkuk before referendum

He explained that there has been conflicting news on whether the High Electoral Commission has accepted his candidacy due to the issue of the deadline.

“If the election commission rejects the opposition candidate, it means the presidential elections won’t take place,” Hawez said.

“If the commission accepts the candidate, it means he will mostly likely win, which will raise the question of how effective the Kurdish political institutions, such as presidency and parliament, are going to be.”

However, Hawez said that new parliamentary elections, the first after the referendum vote with the addition of new political entities and a severe economic crisis, will have an effect on the political landscape in the autonomous Kurdish region.

“The new parliament may lead to a broader coalition to form a new government and that may lead to more accountability and flexibility in negotiations with Baghdad,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera