Iraqi Kurds looking to reverse losses ahead of elections - analysis

Iraqi Kurds are heading to the polls for Sunday's parliamentary elections, which may reshape the region’s political landscape one year after it failed to gain independence in a controversial referendum, the Arab Weekly wrote.

Despite a 93.25 percent vote in favour of independence in the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the Sept. 25, 2017 referendum's legality was rejected by the federal government of Iraq. Iraqi forces then moved to retake control of the disputed, oil-rich territory of Kirkuk, halting payments for Kurdish civil servants and cutting the region’s budget.

Now, the region’s two main parties -  the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - are expected to bolster their numbers in the 111-seat House of Representatives, which they have dominated for more than two decades, Arab Weekly pointed out, noting opposition parties stand to lose influence at the polls.

‘’The main opposition parties competing in the high-stakes elections are the Gorran (Change) movement, which has the second-most — 24 — seats in parliament; the New Generation Movement; and the region’s Islamist parties — the Kurdistan Islamic Union and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG),’’ the article recalled.

However the many voters who are disillusioned by unfulfilled dreams of independent statehood and economic crisis, have little enthusiasm with politicians warning that the turnout could be as low as 40 percent.

The regions’s opposition parties have taken aim at the region’s leadership, vowing to crack down on “injustice” and “economic oppression,” the article stressed.

Fighting broke out between gunmen loyal to Gorran and PUK militiamen following elections for the national parliament in May.

“If there’s widespread fraud again, all opposition parties will be diminished,” the article quoted KIG member Attah Mohammed as saying.

Voters, who feel like they will not get back what they’ve lost,  are less interested in the political wrangling than reversing their losses from the referendum a year ago, Arab Weekly noted.