Campaigning begins for Iraqi Kurdish parliamentary vote
Campaigning kicked off this week for a parliamentary election in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region amid political divisions a year after hopes for independence were dashed.
Around 673 candidates from 29 political movements have thrown their hats into the ring hoping to secure one of 111 seats in Kurdistan's parliament at the election on 30 September. Eleven of the seats are however reserved for religious and ethnic minorities and five will go to Turkmen candidates, five to Christians and one to the Armenian community.
The outgoing parliament is dominated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party of veteran leader and former president Massoud Barzani – as is the government. The KDP currently holds 38 seats, while its traditional rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has 18. The main opposition Goran (Kurdish for "change") party has 24 seats in the outgoing parliament.
The election is not expected to change the political map in Kurdistan, according to experts, but could shed light on the divisions that emerged after the September 2017 independence referendum. That vote – championed by Barzani – saw more than 92 percent of Kurds back secession but the federal government in Baghdad was incensed after long warning that any plebiscite would be "illegal".
In response Baghdad imposed economic penalties while federal troops pushed Kurdish forces out of oil fields in Kirkuk province which were vital for Kurdish economy.
"The political climate is tense," said Kurdish political analyst Hokar Jeto. "All indications are that there could be a low voter turnout similar to what happened in the Iraqi legislative polls."
The Kurdish election follows a parliamentary election across Iraq in May which saw a record low turnout of around 55 percent, with long-time political figures pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption. (AFP)