Barzani party tops Iraq Kurd vote despite failed independence bid

ERBIL: The dominant party in Iraq’s Kurdistan has secured the most seats in the autonomous region’s parliament, despite its leader Masoud Barzani having championed an ill-fated independence referendum last year, the local electoral commission said Sunday.
Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) won 45 of 111 seats in the September 30 polls, up from 38 at the last polls in 2013, according to final results announced by the region’s electoral commission.
Barzani was the key backer of Kurdistan’s independence vote in September 2017 that was deemed illegal by Iraq’s central government and saw Baghdad impose economic penalties and retake disputed territory.
The KDP’s main rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), likewise made gains in the region’s elections and will see 21 of its lawmakers enter parliament, up from 18.
The leaders of the region’s top two political parties also took their rivalry to Baghdad, contesting the honorary role of Iraqi president.
The PUK’s candidate Barham Saleh won that race, maintaining a tacit accord between the two parties which sees the PUK take the federal presidency while the KDP holds the Kurdistan presidency.
However, the Iraqi Kurdish presidency has been left vacant since Barzani stepped down following the failed independence referendum.
In Kurdistan’s parliamentary vote, the main opposition Goran (Change) party lost half of its seats and was left with 12 lawmakers.
The only newcomer in the September 30 poll was the New Generation movement, founded this year to channel public anger at the region’s elite, which won eight seats.
The results mean the KDP could theoretically have the parliamentary majority without having to form an alliance with its political rivals, instead gaining the backing of minority lawmakers.
The appointment of a new president to replace Barzani has been on hold, pending the drafting of a new Kurdish constitution for which no timetable has been set.
Goran and numerous Islamist parties have said they will reject the results of the vote, which saw a 57 percent turnout according to official figures.
The ethnic and religious minorities of Kurdistan’s three provinces in northern Iraq — which have been autonomous since 1991 — are reserved 11 seats in parliament.
Five each go to Turkmen and Christian candidates, with one for the Armenian community.
The remainder of the seats were won by smaller, mainly Islamist parties.

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