KDP should not expect any election reward

KDP leader and KRG president, Masud Barzani

KDP leader and KRG president, Masud Barzani

In the election campaign in the south of Kurdistan to win seats in the Iraqi parliament, there are some key issues. Top of the list is the ongoing shortage of money to pay civil servants’ wages and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) failure to solve this problem. Second, the vacuum caused by the long delay in forming the eighth KRG cabinet following the 21st September 2013 regional parliamentary elections. Third, the KDP’s attitude towards the nationalist movement in the west of Kurdistan and its decision to dig a border ditch between the west and the south, which will have an impact of voters. Fourth,  Erbil’s dispute with the Baghdad government, which is still in deadlock.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) needs to fix what is broken but it is doing very little and wants to give the impression that very little can be done about the current political tensions. The south of Kurdistan is on a gradual course to chaos and instability and the KDP’s election tactics may benefit the PUK and Gorran. Parties rarely win elections without persuading swing voters of their economic competency. The economic downturn of recent months has affected the standing of the KDP more than the other parties. There hasn’t been any official opinion poll yet but, based on our conversations with many people over the last several days, the KDP’s share of the vote seems to be dwindling.

Still worse for the KDP is the crucial but seldom acknowledged fact that the electoral system is more robust than in the past. Each voter has an electronic card, the process of voter registration has been tightened and 1200 observers are coming to Iraq to monitor the polling. It is not impossible – and they can still bribe voters – but it has become more difficult for the KDP and others to carry out ballot rigging.

The most profound significance should be attached to last week’s murky act by the KDP in digging a hole around the borders of the south of Kurdistan, to prevent Kurds coming across from the west.

The party also fails to shine any light through the fog of uncertainty that enshrouds the south of Kurdistan’s politics. The next government will be KDP-led, but no one has any idea what this administration will be like. One KDP faction wants to cosy up to the Gorran movement, while another wants it to keep its distance. Due to this internal division, the KDP under Barzani’s leadership keeps sending out mixed signals.

Added to this, uncertainty hangs over the KRG’s future relationship with the Iraqi government. Masud Barzani has not thinned that cloud by insisting that Iraq will be partitioned, according to his interview with London-based ‘Alhayat’ newspaper five days ago.

Finally, only core KDP supporters, and probably even not all of them, appear to be persuaded that the south of Kurdistan’s much vaunted economic situation is likely to be bright in the future. Therefore, the KDP should not expect an election dividend.

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