KDP, the most powerful party of the KRG, slightly increased its seats in the Iraqi parliament despite the diplomatic and military failure after leading a non-binding independence referendum last year in September.

Employees of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission inspect ballot boxes at a warehouse in Dohuk, Iraq. May 16, 2018.
Employees of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission inspect ballot boxes at a warehouse in Dohuk, Iraq. May 16, 2018. (Reuters)

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)'s leader and former president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, spearheaded an unconstitutional and non-binding independence referendum last year in the KRG, and the response was harsh. The Iraqi army reclaimed all the areas that Kurdish peshmerga forces took control of after they defeated Daesh, and an embargo was put into effect by both the Iraqi central government, Iran and partially by Turkey. Despite the majority 'yes' votes, the referendum result couldn't be implemented and Masoud Barzani resigned his post as the president.

However, this failure didn't prevent the party from receiving more seats in comparison with the last parliamentary election in 2014 in Iraq.

Within the 44 seats of allocated quota for the political parties of the KRG, KDP secured 25 seats in the national parliament in Baghdad, up from 19 in the 2014 election. 

But how did the KDP increase its number of seats in parliament, despite the political and economic crisis caused by the referendum?

"The independence referendum didn’t cause any loss in the eyes of Kurds who might even build Barzani’s sculpture for his efforts if there is an independent Kurdistan in the future," answered Mehmet Bulovali, a Kirkuk-based political analyst.

"The KDP secured another six MPs, three of whom entered the election with a local party and three of them independently in 2014, which means that they slightly increased their votes," he told TRT World.

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) came out as the second party after KDP, securing 18 seats in the parliament, surpassing the Goran Movement who secured nine seats in the 2014 elections but dropped to five this year.

And the former prime minister of the KRG from 2009 to 2012, Bahram Salih, who served as PUK's second deputy for years, resigned and established the Coalition of Democracy and Justice to run in the election.

The parliamentary election became a disappointment for Salih, after his coalition could only secure two seats at the parliament.

Kurdistan Islamic Group and the Kurdistan Islamic Union won two seats each.

And a first time runner in the elections, the New Generation Movement, got four seats.

Allegations of fraud

Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) won parliamentary polls in Kirkuk while the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) secured northern Iraq’s Dohuk, the country’s election commission declared.

Oil-rich Kirkuk city is crucial for the political parties of the KRG, since it's claimed by various ethnic and sectarian groups. Recognised as a disputed city in the Iraqi constitution between the KRG and Iraqi central government, the city's population consists of Shia and Sunni Turkmens, Kurds, Shia and Sunni Arabs. Kirkuk had been under KRG control until the Iraqi army wrested control of it following the independence referendum. 

Arab and Turkmen officials claimed the Kurdish parties rigged the results by tampering with the electronic voting devices, causing Abadi to call for a recount. 

Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi in Baghdad, Iraq. May 20, 2018.
Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi in Baghdad, Iraq. May 20, 2018. (Reuters)

Ershad Salihi, head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF), the most powerful Turkmen Party in Iraq, told Anadolu Agency that he had personally witnessed some of the problems and delays that had reportedly hindered the vote in Kirkuk.

He went on to note that the Kurdish political parties appeared to be leading in areas heavily populated by Arabs, according to preliminary polling results.

"It's a little suspicious that electronic voting machines will be sent to Sulaymaniyah [in the Kurdish region] for maintenance instead of the capital Baghdad," he said.

His party supporters, together with other groups protesting election results, continued weeks of protests, demanding the cancellation of elections.

"On the 21st day of our democracy watch, we are going to keep our resistance until we get back our rights and stolen votes," Salihi tweeted.

According to the poll results, the ITF clinched about 75,000 votes in Kirkuk and 2,500 in Erbil.  

The ITF could only secure nine seats, including three in Kirkuk, four in Tel Afar, and two in Tuz Khurmatu. 

Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani dips his finger in ink after casting his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Erbil, Iraq. May 12, 2018.
Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani dips his finger in ink after casting his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Erbil, Iraq. May 12, 2018. (Reuters)

Coalition calls

No political parties could secure the required number of seats, which is 165, in Iraq’s 329-seat parliament to form a government.

Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr’s Al Sairun coalition won 54 seats, as the Hashd al Shaabi's leader Hadi al Amiri's coalition won 47, and the Prime Minister Haider al Abadi’s coalition won 42 seats.

Now political parties need to form a coalition government, and there is a possibility for the KRG parties to be included in the new coalition.

Sadr, a long-time opponent of the US presence and Iranian influence in Iraq, met with the leader of the pro-Iranian bloc Hadi al Amiri to discuss the results of the elections less than 24 hours after his meeting with Abadi.

Meanwhile, Nechirvan Barzani, nephew of Masoud Barzani and the prime minister of the KRG on Saturday called for a coalition government, with an effective partnership with the Kurds.

“We should form a new coalition government in Iraq based on the principle of consensus and effective partnership with the Kurds,” he said. 

Source: TRT World