Why the Kurdistan Democratic Party boycotting the upcoming elections?

Holding elections in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been a recurrent problem since the establishment of the Kurdistan Region in 1991.

Holding elections in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been a recurrent problem since the establishment of the Kurdistan Region in 1991. The elections have been postponed nine times so far, the extensions of the term of the parliament and the postponement of the elections were as follows: The first extension of the term of the parliament was in May, 1995, and the next extension was in June, 1996, the term of the parliament was extended for three months. The third extension was in September, 1996. The fourth extension was in April, 1998. The fifth extension was in May, 2009. The sixth extension was in June, 2013. The seventh extension was in June 2013. The eighth extension was in October, 2017, and the final extension was in September, 2022.  This has been related to the power struggle between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Elections can not be held if one side refused to participate. This is because each side controls its zone in administration and military terms.

The Iraqi federal supreme court has recently issued several rulings including the dissolution of the Kurdistan parliament and the introduction of new rules for upcoming elections. The KDP felt threatened by the Iraqi federal supreme court’s rulings, and therefore it has rejected the decisions and called the court an “unconstitutional” body that is acting against the interests of the Region. The KDP’s main concerns regarding boycotting the upcoming election can be summarized as follows:

First of all, the KDP is not sure about the election result due to the court’s rulings, and it is therefore afraid of losing the election, there are two indicators in support of this claim:

  1. The KDP is very concerned that the Independent High Election Commission of Iraq is supervising the elections in the region. In its statement, the KDP’s Political Bureau said that: “The Federal Supreme Court’s amendments to key articles of the Kurdistan Parliamentary Election Law, encompassing aspects like electoral constituency determination, seat allocation, supervisory bodies, and electoral appeal resolution, represent a blatant disregard for the constitution’s principle of legislative independence. (This action directly contravenes Article 6, 117 and 121 and of the constitution) about the authority of the region, which stipulates that power transitions must adhere to democratic processes and constitutional procedures. Such amendments threaten to distort the very foundation of the democratic system”.

This implies that the KDP now cannot change the election results and also it cannot cry fraud in the upcoming election. This is because the previous elections are supervised by the Kurdistan High Election Commission, which is controlled by the KDP and the PUK.

2. The KDP is concerned about the removal of the Kurdistan judiciary, which is under its control, from resolving election-related appeals. Based on the court’s rulings the Iraqi judiciary will look at the election-related appeals. In its statement, the KDP’s Political Bureau said that “The decision to transfer the responsibility of resolving electoral appeals from the Kurdistan Regional Government’s judiciary to a judicial body under the Federal Supreme Judicial Council represents a concerning overreach of judicial authority. This move not only infringes upon the autonomy of the regions but also deviates unjustifiably from the established practice of the Independent High Electoral Commission. Such actions risk undermining the integrity and independence of the judiciary, while also disrupting the standard procedures set forth for electoral oversight”.

Consequently, unlike previous elections, because the Iraqi Commission oversees the KRG elections, the KDP is deeply concerned that it is uncertain whether it will secure the necessary votes to win or not, and therefore it refused to participate.

Secondly, the KDP is very concerned about the removal of minority reserved seats. According to the federal court’s verdict, the Kurdistan Parliament consists of one hundred members, rejecting the legitimacy of the 11 seats reserved to minorities until today. This decision was based on a PUK compliant because the KDP has controlled these seats and used the minority seats for its own advantage.  

The KDP’s concern regarding the removal of minority-reserved seats is clearly evidenced in the KDP’s Political Bureau announcement, as it said that“The elimination of the quota seat allocated for component communities in the Kurdistan Parliamentary Election Law undermines a cornerstone of free and fair elections: the guarantee of equal and equitable opportunities for all citizens.This action not only violates Articles 49 and 125 of the Constitution and Iraqi Parliamentary and Provincial Council Elections Law but also contradicts Articles 2 and 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iraq ratified in 1971. These provisions emphasize the importance of ensuring representation for all communities in elected bodies and their involvement in public affairs”.

Third, the KDP is concerned about the limitation of its powers in the Kurdistan Region in general, and in its zone in particular. Although the KDP’s concern about the decisions of the Federal Court regarding the limitations on the Kurdistan Region’s powers is justified, the main concern of the KDP stems from the fact that the it desires to be the absolute ruler in the region, not to have power controlled by law. The KDP is afraid of these decisions, and also it is concerned about future decisions by the federal court to limit its powers in the Kurdistan Region. In other words, the KDP fears losing the powers it now exercises outside the law as a party in the Kurdistan Region. For this reason, it is forced to create obstacles to the decisions of the Federal Court and see it as illegal and unconstitutional.

Sirwan B.H. Hussein
Sirwan B.H. Hussein
freelance journalist