Electoral Commission Suspends Preparations for Iraqi Kurdistan Region Parliamentary Elections

Voting in the elections for the fifth session of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament, 2018. Elections and Referendum Commission in the Kurdistan Region.

By KirkukNow

The Independent High Electoral Commission in Iraq IHEC decided to suspend the financial and technical procedures for the Kurdistan Regional Parliament elections, a day after the state order issued by the Federal Court.

On Wednesday, May 8, the Commission published in a statement that “the decisions of the Federal Court are final and binding on all authorities.” Accordingly, all technical and financial procedures related to the allocation of equipment, printing of ballot papers and sensitive forms, the work of the auditing and monitoring companies, the rest of the technical procedures, and the implementation of the timetable for the Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections to be suspended

The decision of the Federal Court issued on May 7 included halting the implementation of Clause (Second) of Article (2) of the system for registering lists of candidates approved for the elections of the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq until the lawsuit registered by the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG, Masrour Barzani, is resolved in court.

The Commission explained in its statement that all procedures related to the elections will be suspended until the case is resolved in the Federal Court.

The article against which KRGPM filed the lawsuits relates to the division of the 100 seats in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament into four electoral districts: (Erbil Governorate 34 seats), (Sulaymaniyah 38 seats), (Dohuk 25 seats) and (Halabja 3 seats).

The Federal Court clarified that the implementation of the article will be suspended until the case is resolved to avoid the consequences of its implementation that will be difficult to remedy in the future.

In his lawsuit, Masrour Barzani criticized the mechanism for distributing seats to four electoral districts and depriving minorities of quota seats, especially Turkmen and Christians.

On the other hand, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK, which unlike the Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP, supports holding the elections according to the specified mechanism without any change, considered the Commission’s decision “illegal,” as published today on the party’s media, because they believe that the decision is “political, not legal,” and that they will file appeal.

The decision of the Federal Court, which resulted in the suspension of the work of the Election Commission, coincided with the continuation of preparations for the Kurdistan Regional Parliament elections due on June 10th, including the registration of lists, entities and party candidates, at a time when the KDP, which extends its influence over both Erbil and Dohuk governorates, announced a boycott of the elections.

In a statement, the KDP attributed its boycott of the elections to changing the electoral law, reducing the number of seats, and abolishing the quota for minority seats, by decision of the Federal Court.

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Regular session of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Parliament, Erbil, 2022. Media of Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament

On February 21, 2024, the Federal Court issued a series of decisions regarding the Kurdistan Parliament Elections Law of 1992, including reducing the number of parliamentary seats from 111 seats to 100 seats and considering the Kurdistan Region as four electoral districts. The decision provoked protest of ethnic and religious minorities whom lost 11 quota seats (five seats for Turkmen, five seats for Christians, and one seat for Armenians).

Previously, several dates were set for holding the regional parliament elections, the most recent of which was the decree of the region’s presidency that set June 10, 2024 as the date for the elections, after months of disagreements and talks between political parties about amending the election law, electoral districts and voter records.

Nechirvan Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region President IKRP, confirmed in a press conference held on May 7 on the sidelines of his trip to Tehran that he did not discuss with Iranian officials regarding the region’s parliamentary elections, and said, “I did not change the date of the elections, but I want elections to be held that everyone agrees on. I want elections to be held. No party considers itself a loser or a victor.”

In the press conference that preceded the court’s decision, the IKRP, also the vice president of the KDP, expressed his thanks to the Iraqi Prime Minister, the Federal Court and the Iraqi judicial authority for agreeing with his opinion that “No any further step to be taken that might lead to more dispersion in the Kurdistan Region.”

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has never witnessed general elections being held on their legal date. The longest period of postponement was two months and the longest was 10 years.

The population of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR, numbering about six million people, is distributed among the governorates of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk and Halabja. According to the applicable laws, people of the IKR have the right to vote to elect Parliament, the provincial councils and the president of the region every four years.

The last (fifth) parliamentary session was held in September 2018, one year after its scheduled date, and the session was scheduled to end in 2022, but the Kurdistan Parliament, despite the protests of some parliamentary blocs, decided to extend the life of Parliament for another year, before the Federal Court overturned the decision. The extension ends the parliamentary session.

The Kurdistan Region has been in a legal gap since then, and the regional government has become a caretaker government.

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