Mandates split electoral map

Iraq’s supreme court overhauls Kurdistan election law, abolishes minority quota seats

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court issued landmark rulings on Wednesday, declaring several provisions of the Kurdistan Region’s Parliament Election Law unconstitutional, prompting significant changes to the region’s legislative framework and election procedures.

The court found the parts of the Kurdistan election law mandating 111 seat with 11 reserved for minorities, ‘violated’ the constitution. The revised text now stipulates 100 parliamentarians with no quota seats, potentially excluding ethnic minorities from future representation, and going beyond what observers had expected from the court’s ruling.

Delavar Ajgeiy, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s mission to the European Union, expressed concerns on Twitter, stating the decision removes minority quota seats, making it “almost impossible for the Christians and Turkmen to be represented in [the] Kurdistan parliament.”

The ruling stemmed from a suit partly filed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and member Ziad Jabbar, who was named as one of the plaintiffs in the case. The original filing sought reform of the 11 minority quota seats allocated based on ethnicity. The PUK accused the Kurdistan Democratic Party of exploiting the system to elect aligned minority MPs. The KDP denied the allegations but was reluctant to grant changes to the electoral process. Now the court’s verdict has reached further than the PUK’s initial demands.

Furthermore, the court invalidated the Kurdistan Independent Electoral Commission, mandating Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) oversee regional elections.

Additionally, it ruled against the single-constituency system outlined in Article 9, demanding a minimum of four constituencies. One of the PUK’s central complaints in the suit had where low voter turnout in Sulaymaniyah and high turnout in Duhok meant the latter was – in the eyes of Sulaymaniyah-based parties like the PUK – ‘disproportionately’ represented in parliament. For future elections, governorates or constituencies will have a set number of seats based on population regardless of turnout in that constituency.

Regarding political participation, the court nullified provisions that restricted candidates to entities running region-wide and set a minimum number of candidates per electoral list. Under the ruling, any political entity in Kurdistan can now submit lists, with a mandatory 30% female quota.

Several other challenges related to the election law and leadership roles within the region were dismissed due to lack of legal grounds.

These verdicts are expected to have far-reaching implications for the Kurdistan Region’s political landscape and future elections.