Contradictory media reports

Confusion reigns over Kurdistan election delay as commission officials claim business as usual

ERBIL — The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission has denied reports that its offices in the Kurdistan region have ceased operations. These reports, which appeared in some media outlets today, claimed that the commission had already halted preparations for the upcoming Kurdistan parliamentary elections.

The reports first emerged in media outlets affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, such as Rudaw, which reported, “the commission had halted its preparations.” This was followed by a similar report from Kurdistan 24, widely reported to be associated with Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, deputy chairman of the KDP, citing a “high-level source from the commission.” The source alleged that the “commission had ceased all work related to the sixth parliamentary elections in Kurdistan.”

The sixth parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan Region are scheduled for June 10 after several postponements from the original 2022 date. IHEC will oversee the electoral process, which has been in preparation for several months.

Channel 8, allegedly linked to Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Bafel Talabani, initially echoed these claims but later retracted them, with its sources indicating that “the halt was only temporary and affected activities with high costs.”

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, said his party, the PUK, reject any attempts to further delay the poll.

Well-placed sources in former PUK Co-President Lahur Talabany’s new political movement, the People’s Front, told 964media that the commission has not communicated any delay to them.

A halt in ‘high-cost’ activities relating to election preparation would lend credence to reports that another postponement is imminent. However, Emad Jameel, spokesperson for the Iraqi High Electoral Commission, refuted the reports in a statement to 964media, affirming that their offices in Kurdistan are operational with no interruptions.

“There is no formal decision to stop operations. Offices and election requirements, particularly those involved in biometric voter cards and other citizen-related electoral tasks, are functioning for the elections,” Jameel said.

It is not clear whether business as usual at the local commission offices points to an overall continuation of all preparations or if the local offices would continue with vital work on voter rolls regardless of a delay.

Soran Omar, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament, told 964media that per the Iraqi prime minister’s order, the commission had suspended printing voter cards for the Kurdistan parliamentary elections until the following Monday.

A team from the Iraqi Electoral Commission is currently in the UAE to print election cards for Kurdistan but has paused their work pending further instructions, Omar claimed: “The Iraqi Prime Minister has ordered the technical preparations for the parliamentary elections to be halted until Monday.”

In mid-March, the KDP announced its withdrawal from the upcoming elections scheduled for June 10, despite the date being set by Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, a senior KDP figure. The KDP has raised several objections to Federal Court rulings on the Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary election, including the transition to a multi-constituency system, the elimination of 11 minority quota seats in the legislature, and the allocation of three seats for Halabja governorate, instead of the six seats proposed by the KDP. The party also expressed concerns about having the federal government’s IHEC manage the region’s elections.

Despite its decision, the KDP insists it is ‘not boycotting’ the electoral process and is willing to participate in parliamentary polls if conducted ‘freely and fairly’, without external interference—an veiled reference to speculated Iranian influence behind the Federal Supreme Court’s rulings.

During a recent visit to Baghdad by President Nechirvan Barzani, the potential delay of another election was a significant topic. Reportedly, Iraqi parties have expressed a desire to remain neutral on the election delay issue, indicating the federal government’s intent to avoid further disputes with Erbil.