Monday, July 27, 2009

Kurdistan Elections Update

The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has yet to announce the results of the parliamentary and presidential elections of Kurdistan region. However, the competing political blocs have been talking about the estimated number of seats they secured. The interesting thing is that there seems to be a general agreement on these estimates among the rival slates.
From the information I compiled, the 111 parliamentary seats are expected to be distributed as follows:

- The Kurdistan bloc (PUK and KDP) is expected to get approximately 55 seats
- The Change slate is expected to get approximately 30 seats
- The coalition of Islamic-Leftist parties is expected to get 15 seats
- The minorities (Christian, Turkmen, others) who are traditionally affiliated with the Kurdistan bloc are expected to get the remaining 11 seats

The fact that the shares of the Islamists, leftists and minorities hardly changed at all means that the opposition, represented by the Change slate, managed to extract most of those 30 seats from the PUK and KDP. This implies that the elections were rather fair, and that the claims of rampant fraud and violations were perhaps a little exaggerated.

The results also reflect the social differences between the different parts of Kurdistan. The Change slate fared very well in the more liberal and open society of Sulaymaniyah. By contrast, the more socially and religiously conservative societies in Dohuk and Erbil favored the KDP and the Islamist opposition.

The impact of these results on Kurdish politics is likely to be great. A leading member of the Islamist-Leftist coalition alluded to a possible alliance with the Change slate to challenge the control of the PUK and KDP. Such an alliance, if becomes reality, would mean that the ruling coalition will have to work in the presence of an opposition that controls nearly 40% of the seats in the Kurdish parliament.

It is not clear yet how this change in Kurdistan’s political map is going to impact the political scene on the national level. This is largely because the slate’s campaign was focused more on corruption and services than on Arab-Kurdish relations. It is however natural that a bloc that controls almost a third of Kurdistan’s parliament will have a role to play in Kurdistan-Baghdad relations. This role could become quite significant if the Change slate performs similarly in the national general elections next January. The way this bloc aligns in the future vis-à-vis other political powers will be interesting to watch.

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