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Iraqi Kurds to Elect New Parliament Sunday

Supporters of the former president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, rally ahead of regional elections, in Irbil, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2018.

Iraqi Kurds will head to the polls this Sunday to elect a new parliament for the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, a year after a controversial independence referendum led to an armed crackdown from the Iraqi government.

The region’s politics have been dominated by a coalition between the pro-independence Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the left-leaning Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for almost three decades.

A range of smaller parties have representation, but not enough to shift the balance of power.

Many observers expect turnout for this election to be lower than during the previous one, citing Kurd’s disenfranchisement with the political process over perceived corruption and voter fraud, and a lack of change in the region’s status. Others see the election as a chance to improve public perception of the region’s chaotic political system.

“I think at the end of the day it will be beneficial,” said Yousif Ismail of the Washington Kurdish Institute. “It gives more legitimacy to the Kurdistan region politics.”

“This election is not for all of Iraq,” he added, “which gives people more motivation to show up.”

Senior KDP leader Hoshyar Zebari echoed this sentiment, saying the election would be “critical to restoring the legitimacy of our institutions” following accusations of widespread fraud in nationwide parliamentary elections in Iraq in May.