UN official says Iraqi Kurds 'should agree on elections soon' and end political deadlock
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert is reportedly concerned about the political deadlock in the Iraqi Kurdistan region with parties still unable to agree on upcoming parliamentary elections, a source has told The New Arab.
Hosted by the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, five of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region's main political parties convened for a third time in Erbil on Wednesday to discuss upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for 1 October.
Plasschaert also attended the meeting and was unhappy about the current stalemate, the source said.
"Plasschaert expressed concern that the meetings are not yet fruitful and that the Kurdish political parties should settle their differences as soon as possible so that a new date [for voting] can be chosen after the postponement of parliamentary elections," a source who attended the meeting told The New Arab.
"She also expressed concerns that if the Kurdish political parties did not reach a settlement soon, the situation in the Kurdistan region [could be as] destabilised as the rest of Iraq."
Plasschaert previously headed a meeting with top officials from the Kurdish political parties in Erbil on 26 May in a bid to seal an agreement on upcoming elections. She also participated in another meeting with the political parties on 9 June.
Key issues are impeding the chances of elections being held in October, including differences among Kurdish political parties over the composition of the electoral commission and calls for amending the region's decades-old election law.
"Mrs. Plasschaert delivered a speech about the significance of the political parties reaching an agreement on the election issue and setting a date for the process to take place. She also expressed the full support of the United Nations for the elections to be held successfully," the Kurdistan Region Presidency (KRP) said in a statement after the meeting.
"Furthermore, Mrs. Plasschaert stressed that all political parties should reach a conclusion soon, because of time constraints.
"It was decided that the last meeting will be held in early September to complete all discussions regarding the election issue and to solve the problems that face the process."
The UNAMI did not comment on the source's claims.
Yassin Hama Ali, head of the elections commission at the Kurdish Movement of Change (Gorran), said it is unlikely that elections will be held in October and that a special committee will continue to work with parties to find a compromise on the postponement of the election.
"The political parties are still disagreeing on some contested issues, including the quota of the minorities, and how the region's election commission will be reactivated," Hama Ali told The New Arab.
"Unfortunately, there is a lack of trust among the political parties, the majority of them deem the activation of the commission to be conditional on the Kurdistan parliament guaranteeing an amendment to the election law."
Hama Ali said there are concerns that the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) might avoid amending the laws once a mandate for the current electoral commission is renewed by parliament.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Gorran, partners with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) joined by three main opposition parties - the New Generation Movement, the Kurdistan Justice Party (Komal), and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) - are asking the Kurdistan parliament to amend the election law.
They also want to divide the region into at least four electoral districts and the establishment of a new election commission.
Massoud Barzani's KDP, which has a thin majority of 45 seats in the parliament, insists on upcoming elections being held under the current election law and to be supervised by the region's election commission whose mandate has already expired.
Rival politicians claim that the KDP is opposing the electoral reforms since it fears its share of the vote will diminish if this is achieved.
The Kurdistan parliament includes 111 seats; women have a minimum quota of 30 percent, while 11 seats are allocated for parties that represent minority groups. The KDP, which has dominated the support of 11 lawmakers from minority groups, is considered a kingmaker in the Kurdish parliament.
The last parliamentary election, held in September 2018, saw a turnout of 57 percent and was marred by allegations of large-scale voter fraud by the KDP - which dominates Erbil and Duhok provinces - and the PUK - that controls Sulaimaniyah and Halabja provinces.