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Elections in Iraq’s Kurdistan region delayed as parties fail to present candidates

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani (Photo by AFP)

Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has decided to postpone elections for the region’s presidency and parliament as political parties still grapple with the aftermaths of a controversial independence referendum held in the semi-autonomous territory nearly a month ago.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Kurdish MP said on Monday that political parties in Kurdistan had failed to focus on the elections and present candidates because of turmoil that followed the September 25 referendum.

The deadline to present candidates expired last week and was extended until Monday.

Iraq, along with neighbors Iran and Turkey, opposed the vote, warning that the referendum would further complicate the security situation in the Arab country that has been grappling with foreign-backed militancy in its north and west for the past three years.

Following the vote, the central government in Baghdad shut down flights in and out of the region and ordered a halt to its independent crude oil sales.

The Kurdish region further slipped into political uncertainty after Iraqi forces captured the disputed city of Kirkuk last week. The city and its surroundings, rich in oil and populated by Kurds, Arabs and Christians, have been at the heart of a long-running row between Erbil and Baghdad.

Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani (C) and his wife Nabila (L) cast their vote for the Kurdish independence referendum at a hotel in Erbil on September 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Political parties have criticized KRG President Massoud Barzani for the deepening stand-off with Baghdad that they blame on the Kurdish leader’s ill-timed decision to hold the referendum.

The KRG’s paramilitary forces, known as Peshmerga, have helped Iraqi government purge Daesh Takfiri terrorists from key urban areas. However, the cooperation seems to have turned into a fierce rivalry after the controversial referendum.

Gorran, the main opposition party to Barzani, issued a statement on Sunday, calling for the resignation of the Kurdish leader who has held the region’s presidency since 2005. The opposition party said Barzani was responsible for the turmoil that followed the referendum.

Sources in the Kurdish electoral commission said Monday it was now up to the Kurdistan region’s parliament to announce a new date for presidential and parliamentary elections. The current presidency and parliament would continue to function until new elections were held in the region.

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