A year after a failed bid for independence, Iraq’s Kurds will be voting again on Sunday, this time in a parliamentary election that could disrupt the delicate balance of power in their semi-autonomous region. With opposition parties weak, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are likely to extend their almost three decades of sharing power. But splits within the PUK present the possibility that Masoud Barzani’s KDP will take a dominant position in Kurdish politics, both in the regional capital Erbil and in the difficult formation of a federal government in Baghdad. The contentious referendum on independence in 2017, led by Barzani, promised to set Iraq’s Kurds on a path to a homeland.
Instead, a swift backlash from Baghdad dashed those prospects and diminished the region’s autonomy.
Speaking on the vote’s first anniversary, Barzani, who stepped down as Kurdish president in the aftermath, told thousands of flag-waving men in Erbil: “We will never give up our dignity or honour.”
But Barzani – still the KDP’s leader and main vote-getter – also added that “even 1,000 years of war won’t solve the problem”.