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Minorities in Iraqi Kurdistan reject election seat allocations

The elections are set for 10 June. However, the polls are expected to be postponed until at least October or November. [Getty]

Minorities in the Iraqi Kurdistan region have rejected the allocation of five seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections after Iraq‘s top court ruled in February that they had lost their 11 quota seats in the legislature, deeming them “unconstitutional.”

Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan were initially scheduled for late 2022; however, disputes between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led to several delays. While the elections are set for 10 June, Kurdish sources told The New Arab that they are expected to be postponed until at least October or November.

On Tuesday, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court upheld the Supreme Judicial Council’s decision to allocate five seats to minorities in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The court also rejected a plea by Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), contesting the seat distributions.

The President of the Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, is expected to announce a new election date soon in coordination with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). In a step aimed at facilitating the elections, Iraq’s parliament extended IHEC’s mandate on Wednesday, which would expire on 7 July, for another six months.

The court’s decision comes amid mounting tensions within the Kurdistan Region’s political landscape. The KDP, led by Masoud Barzani, had already declared a boycott of the elections and called for their postponement by at least three months. Barzani’s lawsuit challenged the distribution of parliamentary seats among constituencies, alleging that the current allocation method is unconstitutional. Earlier this month, the court-mandated a temporary halt to preparations for the Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary elections.

In February, Iraq’s top court ruled that the Kurdistan region’s parliament would consist of 100 lawmakers, effectively terminating the 11 quota seats for Turkmen, Christians, and Armenians that had been in place since 1992. The court’s decision followed a complaint by Yousif Yacoub Matti, head of the Bethnahrain Patriotic Union, a Christian party that, along with other minority parties, threatened to boycott the elections.

According to the decision, the five allocated seats will be divided among the three provinces of the Kurdistan Region: Sulaimani will receive two seats, Erbil will receive two seats, and Duhok will receive one seat. IHEC clarified that Erbil and Sulaimani would each receive one seat for the Christian and Turkmen communities, while Duhok’s would be allocated to the Armenians.

The PUK has rejected this decision and asked Iraq’s top court to add another seat for the Kakayee minority in Halabja province.

The KDP decided in March to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for 10 June, citing concerns, particularly regarding Baghdad’s removal of the minority quota. Earlier in May, IHEC temporarily suspended preparations for the elections pending a ruling on a lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani regarding the division of seats for constituencies.

The KDP claims that a recent ruling by the Iraqi federal court on the minority quota seats and the division of the region into four constituencies is “unconstitutional.” A source close to the PUK told TNA that Barzani will announce the postponement of the region’s parliamentary elections to October or November.

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