The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Iraq announced that the campaign for the legislative elections in Iraqi Kurdistan will start on Aug. 28 and last until Sept. 17. The Sept. 21 legislative elections will be the most crucial elections in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s history, as it may be a turning point to change the political shape of the next parliament as well as the new government cabinet. The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, announced on May 26 that all three elections — presidential, legislative and provincial — would be held on Sept. 21. According to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s parliamentary election law, presidential and legislative elections should be held simultaneously. But soon after this announcement, on June 30, parliament extended Barzani’s term for another two years. Meanwhile, IHEC delayed the provincial elections until Nov. 21.
Although the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — led by Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani — was in favor of postponing legislative elections, opposition parties such as the Change movement, Islamic Union and Islamic Group insisted on holding the elections. However, the PUK is suspicious of the voter rolls — a parliamentary commission announced that 177,000 names of deceased voters have not been removed.
In the Sept. 21 legislative election, 2,803,000 are eligible to vote to send 111 representatives to a fourth parliament. In comparison with the previous three parliamentary elections, this election is totally different, as it may change the political shape of the region.
The first Iraqi Kurdistan parliamentary election was held on May 19, 1991, in which the two ruling parties — the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Talabani — each won 50% of the vote. The KPD and PUK formed a cabinet known as “50 by 50,” in which they equally distributed power. In 1994, fighting broke out between the two parties, which prevented the region from holding elections until after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime. The second parliamentary elections took place on Jan. 30, 2005. Again, the two ruling parties formed a cabinet. In the third parliamentary election held on July 25, 2009, a strong opposition party emerged and won 25 out of 111 seats. The two ruling parties only won 59 seats combined. The two Islamic opposition parties won 10 seats and announced their opposition.