Kurdistan Region — Top Iraqi and Kurdish officials have taken the opportunity to express their hopes and fears while casting their ballot on Sunday for the Iraqi parliamentary elections.
Millions of Iraqis are heading to the polls across the country in early parliamentary elections, the sixth such election since the US-led coalition toppled the previous regime in 2003. The polls opened early Sunday at 7 am and are expected to close at 6 pm no matter what, according to Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) spokesperson Jumana al-Ghalai.
Officials in the Kurdistan Region and across Iraq urged voters to turn up at the polling stations and cast their ballots, while security forces reassured that they have done their utmost to maintain security.
Nechirvan Barzani, president of Kurdistan Region, was one of the first people to cast his vote in Erbil. In a brief statement to the cameras after his vote, Barzani said he “hopes that when the election is over, parties in Kurdistan will unify their voices to advocate for the rights of Kurdistan Region within a federal Iraq.” Barzani also reiterated the Kurdistan Regional Government’s willingness to abide by the Iraqi constitution.
Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said as he cast his vote in Baghdad that it is the destiny of all Iraqis to work together to overcome their obstacles. “There is no option for the Kurdistan region or for the center except reaching an agreement and resolving the issues based on the constitution,” Maliki told reporters after casting his vote. “We all experience challenges. The Kurdistan Region is facing challenges both external and internal [challenges] and Iraq is also facing external and internal challenges and as Iraqis when we face these challenges we tend to come together.”
Maliki told reporters that it was too early to speak about any coalition to form the next government, and said that Baghdad and Erbil need to find a mechanism to permanently resolve their issues.
Meanwhile, in Sulaimani, Qubad Talabani, the leader of the Kurdistan Coalition, which includes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Change Movement (Gorran), told reporters while casting his vote that there are issues related to the Kurdistan Region that require unity among its parties. He also said that “a lot of important issues related to the Kurds are in Baghdad. Therefore, it’s important for the Kurds to have strong representation in Baghdad.”
Several thousand local and international observers are overseeing the election process which has proceeded smoothly except for some technical issues in a number of polling stations. IHEC spokesperson Jumana al-Ghalai told Rudaw that in the case of any voting machine failures, the commission has brand new machines that can be replaced within a short space of time by a technical team of around 100 people.
Officials from smaller parties across the Kurdistan Region also urged the voters to cast their votes.
Shaswar Abdulwahid, the leader of the opposition party New Generation Movement, told Rudaw’s reporter in Sulaimani that his movement will wait to see the results of the elections before making any statement about a future government in Baghdad. He also stated that Friday’s special voting went smoothly and he is expecting the same for today.
Some officials conceded the previous parliaments have not carried out their responsibilities and hoped that the upcoming parliament would be better equipped to hold the government to account as Iraq still faces a basic shortage of services including electricity.
Ali Bapir, the leader of the Kurdistan Justice Group, was among the politicians who voted in Erbil. In a brief statement, he hoped that the new parliament “will be more active and see all Iraqis as equal and respect the rights of all.” Bapir who heads one of the main Islamist parties in the Kurdistan Region, predicts that new coalitions will emerge within the next Iraqi parliament.
Salahaddin Bahadin, the leader of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, reiterated the significance of Kurdish unity in Baghdad. Bahadin also hoped that the people of Iraq, through the election, will make big changes in the way their country is run.
A brief video that was released by Barzani Headquarters, showed the moment Masoud Barzani, president of Kurdistan Democratic Party and former president of Kurdistan Region, casting his ballot earlier today in Pirmam, outside Erbil. In a statement released on October 7th, Barzani asked the people of Kurdistan and members of his party to participate in the elections.
Over 3,200 candidates are competing for 329 seats in the parliament. At least 25 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in today’s special elections. The Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jalil Adnan on Saturday said that the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is fully prepared for Sunday’s elections.