The Dirty, Dark Side of the Kurdistan Region Parliament Election


By Aras Ahmed Mhamad:

Voting to elect a new Kurdistan region parliament will begin at 8am on September 30, 2018 and it will end at 6pm the same day. There are 3,085,461 eligible voters in the four cities of Hewlêr (Erbil), Slêmanî, Duhok, and Halabja distributed among 1260 polling stations, according to The Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission. 773 candidates are racing for 111 parliament seats; 30 percent is allocated to females by law.

As usual, ballot fraud, vote rigging, and other irregularities are highly expected. Another problem is voting hours that will be extended surely like all the previous elections. When ISIS captured parts of Syria and Iraq, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) rushed to the Kurdistan region seeking for shelter. A number of these refugees and IPDs have not returned to their hometowns yet and the then opposition parties claim that they are registered by the KDP and PUK to vote in this election.

Kurdistan region’s fledgling democracy is taking the wrong turn with hundreds of candidates turning to social media platforms to propagate their agendas and mobilize voters. Image manipulation, disseminating lies, and terrorizing the characters of the candidate and his or her relatives have become part of the mentality of some political parties and their members. In the previous elections, political party-oriented unverified Facebook pages attacked their opponents, used defamatory language, and distorted images of women candidates representing them as prostitutes.

Online campaigning has intensified the fever of the election campaign. One of the candidates of the KDP several days ago threatened that she will cut people’s tongues once she gets elected. Her statement went viral on Facebook and other social networking sites and people have started calling her by nicknames such as Nasik the Scissors, Nasik the Tongue-cutter. Ironically, her name (Nasik) means something smooth, clean, charming, and nice.

Hemen Hawrami, head of the KDP list, and Qubad Talabani, head of the PUK list, for this parliamentary election have violated the codes of the election campaign trespassing against public property. Hawrami and Talabani have stuck their flyers and placards on main paths and public places blocking people’s way and narrowing roads. Candidates from almost all the political parties and lists have trespassed against public property. Some have stuck their pictures on walls of mosques, and others on traffic lights and government billboards signalling their total disregard for the environment. However, not a single candidate has been disqualified, highlighting the poor performances of the electoral commission and lack of awareness of the dangers of pollution.

Although there are a few optimistic points about election campaigns in the Kurdistan region, such as that candidates do not use sectarianism or ethnic division in their propaganda, there are always high risks of tasteless political outbidding, tactical use of revolutionary legitimacy, and bargaining with the blood of fallen and martyred peshmarga by the candidates. Sometimes it is quite a feat to know who the real candidate is!

Aras Ahmed Mhamad is a freelance journalist. He has contributed to Fair Observer, The World Weekly, Newsweek Middle East, The New Arab, and Your Middle East, among others.

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