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Iraq’s Kurdistan to hold fresh elections in 8 months

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)
The photo taken on September 15, 2017 shows a general view of Kurdish lawmakers sitting during a session of Kurdistan's regional parliament in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (AFP photo)

The parliament in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan has announced that legislative and presidential elections that were delayed due to the ongoing political stand-off with Baghdad would be held in eight months' time.

“The Kurdistan parliament decided... to postpone the parliamentary elections in the autonomous region by eight months,” Bahzad Zebari, a Kurdish lawmaker representing the Islamic Union of Kurdistan, said on Tuesday.

The lawmaker did not elaborate on a new date for the elections, which had originally been set for November 1.

The vote was delayed over an escalating stand-off between Erbil and the central government in Baghdad.

Iraqi leaders have harshly criticized a decision last month by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to hold a referendum of independence in the region. They, along with neighbors Iran and Turkey, say the move could further complicate security in Iraq and the entire Middle East. Sources in the Kurdish parliament said on Monday that political parties could not focus on introducing candidates for the elections and a postponement was inevitable.

More than 90 percent voted in favor of independence in the September 25 referendum. Baghdad says it will not allow secession.

The photo taken on September 12, 2017 shows Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region. (AFP photo)

The political uncertainty in Kurdistan further deepened last week, when Iraqi government forces recaptured areas controlled by the KRG in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. The territory, with a provincial capital which goes by the same name is populated by Kurds, Arabs and Christians. It has been at the heart of a long-running dispute between Baghdad and Erbil and its fall into the hands of Iraqis has piled more pressure on the KRG leader, Masoud Barzani, to step down.

Opposition parties in Kurdistan endorse the region’s drive for independence from Iraq but they insist Barzani is responsible for the current political turmoil as he chose the wrong timing to hold the referendum.  

On the delay in the elections, Farsat Sofi, a lawmaker allied to Barzani, said on Tuesday that the Kurdish parliament would choose a new date. Until that time, the office of parliament, operating since 2013, and the presidency, which has been controlled by Barzani since 2005, will continue to function.


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