By Idris Okuducu
ERBIL, Iraq (AA) – Parliamentary elections in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region will be held on schedule, according to Hindirin Muhammed Salih, head of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s official electoral commission.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Friday, Salih said: “We’re the sole official body overseeing the polls, which will not be canceled or postponed.”
“They will be held on Sept. 30, according to schedule,” he added.
So far, according to Salih, only 30 percent of the region’s residents had formally registered to cast ballots.
“Hopefully, the rest will register before the Aug. 16 deadline,” he said, going on to lament an apparent lack of interest on the part of much of the voting public.
Rumors that the election could be postponed — or called off entirely — began circulating after an Aug. 1 meeting in Erbil (the KRG’s administrative capital) between Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy for the fight against terrorism, and former KRG President Masoud Barzani.
In subsequent statements, however, both men dismissed the rumors, saying that neither of them had requested any election delays.
Last week, KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani poured fuel on the fire by telling reporters that both McGurk and Barzani wanted to see the polls delayed, but that neither had “had the nerve” to openly request such a move.
In televised comments on Wednesday, Heme Haci Mahmoud, a leader of the Kurdistan Socialist Democrat Party, accused Iran — rather than the U.S. — of standing behind calls for an election delay.
Mahmoud said that Iranian diplomats had recently approached the Kurdish region’s main political parties — including his own — to express their desire to see the election postponed until after a new coalition government had been cobbled together in Baghdad.
According to the KRG's electoral commission, roughly three million people are currently eligible to vote in the Sept. 30 poll, which will see 29 parties and coalitions vie for seats in the Erbil-based Kurdish parliament.
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara