With none of political parties able to anticipate a victory, the upcoming Iraqi Kurdish parliamentary election might be the most important one ever.
Iraqi Kurdistan's parliamentary election campaign started on Aug. 28 and the vote is slated for Sept. 21. The Kurdish parliament consists of 111 seats and 1,129 candidates from 30 political parties and blocs will run for 100 seats. A total of 30 percent of the seats are reserved for female candidates. The 11 remaining seats are reserved for minorities: five for Turkmens, five for Christians and one for an Armenian. The election system is a semi-open list with the entire region as a single electoral constituency.
Out of 30 political parties and blocs, only five have a chance to enter parliament: Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Nawsherwan Mustafa's Change Movement (Gorran), the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and the Islamic Group in Kurdistan (Komal).
The competition to gain most seats in the parliament will largely take place among these three: the KDP, PUK and Gorran. In the current round, the KDP has 30 seats in parliament, the PUK has 29 and Gorran has 25.
What makes this election especially important is the absence of multiparty alliances and the future balance of power between the two ruling parties. In the previous elections, the two major ruling parties, the KDP and PUK, had taken part in the elections together and they have shared power ever since. But in this election each of them participate separately, which will jiggle the balance of power because there will be no more share of power based on the 50/50 division that used to be.
The opposition parties have 35 seats in the current parliament and they have a chance to increase the number of their seats to join the next cabinet but it is less likely that they can form the government alone or even by excluding either of the two ruling parties, the KDP and PUK. This outcome is less likely largely because the KDP and PUK have monopolized money and military in the region in a way that it would be impossible to rule without them even if the opposition gets the majority.
This, however, is not sufficient to downplay the power of the ballot box. In the previous election that took place on July 25, 2009, the emergence of the Change Movement, which got 25 out of 100 seats, was an earthquake that gave unprecedented vibrancy to the election process and a more serious political life afterwards.
Observers estimate that the KDP is expected to get the highest number of seats followed by Gorran and then the PUK in the elections. This poll is also expected to be a special rivalry between the PUK and Gorran because Gorran used to be a wing within the PUK but split in 2008 because of deep disagreements. The absence of Talabani, who has been hospitalized in Germany since December 2012, downgraded the PUK's popularity. According to the Kurdish Basnews agency, Talabani may return to the KRG in upcoming days, which would raise the votes of the PUK vastly.
Experts predict that the KDP will receive between 35 and 38 seats, mainly from the cities of Erbil and Duhok. It will be followed by the Change Movement, which is expected to receive between 22 and 24 seats mainly in the city of Sulimania and the PUK is expected to get around 20 seats. The seats of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, the Kurdish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, are expected to stand at between 10 and 12 seats and the Islamic group Komal is expected to receive between seven and eight seats.
Although the next Iraqi Kurdish election is expected to topple neither of the two ruling parties from power, it's increasingly anticipated to change the balance of power in the oil-rich region and the current opposition may become one of the pillars of the next cabinet.
This article first appeared on Today's Zaman - here: