Iraqi Kurds vote in parliamentary polls Sunday

By Mazin Majeed Asaad Baqal

ERBIL (AA) – Voters in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region will cast ballot in the region’s parliamentary elections on Sunday in which 29 parties and coalitions are vying for seats.

The High Election Commission in the Kurdish region has established some 5,933 voting stations in the cities of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk and Halabja for the polls.

Around 3.8 million voters are eligible to cast ballot in the vote to elect 111 members of parliament.

Voting will begin at 08.00 a.m. local time and end at 18.00 p.m.

Electronic vote counting, which has caused uproar during Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary election, will not be used in the Kurdish polls. Votes, instead, will be counted manually.

Leading parties vying for seats in the parliamentary polls include Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Gorran Movement, Kurdistan Islamic Party (Yekgirtu), Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), Kurdistan Islamic Movement (Bizutnava) and the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF).

The parliamentary polls are held every four years in the Kurdish region.

It had been scheduled to be held in 2017, but the vote was postponed for a year as a result of political and economic crises in the region.

The parliamentary vote in the Kurdish region is the first since the defeat of the Daesh terrorist group by Iraqi forces and a U.S.-led coalition last year.

– KDP to stand its ground

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been the dominant force of the elections since 1992.

Recent opinion polls showed that the KDP led by former leader of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani – which has a strong backing in Erbil and Duhok — will be able to keep its seats in parliament due to current divisions in the opposition.

In the 2013 parliamentary polls, KDP won 38 seats in parliament, managing to keep the presidency, prime ministry and top portfolios.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which is dominant in Sulaymaniyah, won 18 seats in the last KRG parliamentary polls, trailing third after the Gorran Movement.

As PUK has failed to choose a party leader since former president Jalal Talabani, it has lost a considerable blood as a result of internal conflicts.

– Declining Gorran Movement

Founded in 2009, the Gorran Movement ranked second in the last parliamentary polls.

Led by Omar Sayyid Ali, the movement won 24 seats in the last parliamentary election in 2013, becoming a leading actor in the region.

The movement, however, has recently been losing its charm among voters due to its failure to set creative solutions to current problems in the Kurdish region or fulfill the promised reforms.

Although the movement claims that it will maintain its current seats in parliament, it is predicted that the movement will fare poorly in this weekend’s polls.

The Kurdistan Islamic Party (Yekgirtu) currently holds 11 seats in the KRG parliament while the Kurdistan Islamic Movement (Bizutnava) has only one seat. Their alliance, Reform Front, aims to attract conservative voters during the ballot.

Yekgirtu stands as the fourth party in the region and seeks to impress voters through its discourse of reform. The party is led by Salahaddin Bahaddin, who is regarded as a source of balance between Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

On the other hand, Bizutnava, by uniting with Yekgirtu, seeks to strengthen its political status in the region and gain a more effective role in the political atmosphere.

– Komal's harsh opposition

Led by Ali Bapir, the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) was founded in 2001. The party grabbed six seats in parliament in the 2013 parliamentary elections.

Sharing a close relationship with the Gorran Movement, which is positioned as the main opposition in the recent period, Komal harshly criticizes KDP and PUK on the grounds that they are at the epicenter of the current problems. Hence, it has successfully located itself at the center of the opposition wing.

– ITC eyes two seats

During the Sunday election, Turkmen will be competing under eight different lists. Among Turkmen parties vying in the polls are the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC), Erbil Turkmen List and Nation List.

ITC, the most significant party of the Iraqi Turkmen, plans to increase its seats in parliament by winning a second seat in the polls.

The lists of the Christians, Assyrians and Kaldanis (Chaldean) will be competing for a quota of six seats.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from Ankara

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