Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s parliamentary elections are set to take place in February 2024 at the earliest, the official electoral body of Iraq’s federal government announced on Wednesday.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had requested that the Kurdistan parliamentary elections be held on the same date or after the 18 December Iraqi local elections.
The Iraqi electoral commission, however, alleged that holding two elections concurrently, or one shortly after the other, would hold challenges, and said that the February date took into account a required six months of prior preparation for parliamentary elections.
The commission’s stance caused confusion in the region, as it contradicted an earlier statement made by the same body, reported by Erbil (Hewler) based media network Rudaw, that the parliamentary elections were of higher priority than the region’s provincial council elections and therefore would take place unexpectedly soon.
Kurdistan’s election dilemma: Seeking stability amidst disputes
There has been no functioning legislative body in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since May, and under the ensuring period of political instability, scheduling parliamentary elections was a priority for the autonomous Kurdish administration.
Elections were postponed last year due to disagreements between the two ruling parties, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) on critical issues such as electoral law, taxes, and oil revenue distribution.
In October 2022, the two parties decided to extend the parliament’s term in order to continue negotiations. However, on 30 May, an Iraqi federal court ruled that the extension of the Kurdistan Parliament’s mandate had been illegal, resulting in a dissolution of parliament.
All decisions made by the Kurdistan Parliament during the extension period were considered invalid under the court’s ruling, therefore the legislature was unable to organise an electoral process. As a result, responsibility for organising and monitoring elections was handed over to the Iraqi electoral commission, bypassing the KRG.
Political actors and analysts in the region argue that postponing the elections will only deepen political conflict and uncertainty in the region, and insist that holding the elections as soon as possible is crucial to establishing a stable and peaceful regional administration.