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Iraq’s Kurdistan region delays elections

Loss of Kirkuk has prompted Kurds to call for Barzani’s resignation

Gulf News

Baghdad: Elections for Iraq’s Kurdistan region’s presidency and parliament set for November 1 will be delayed because political parties failed to present candidates, the head of the electoral commission Hendrean Mohammad said on Monday.

Parties have been unable to focus on the elections because of turmoil that followed a referendum on September 25 on Kurdish independence, a Kurdish MP said on condition of anonymity.

Authorities in Baghdad as well as neighbours Iran and Turkey opposed the referendum that saw a clear independence majority.

Last week, Iraqi forces captured the oil city of Kirkuk and other territory claimed by the Kurds in retaliation for the referendum, dealing a severe blow to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani.

The Kurdish electoral commission’s Mohammad, speaking by phone from the KRG capital Arbil, in northern Iraq, said it is up to the Kurdistan region’s parliament to fix a new date for the elections.

The deadline to present candidates expired last week and was extended until Monday.

The current KRG presidency, held by Barzani since 2005, and parliament, elected in 2013, are expected to continue until new votes are held, he said.

The loss of Kirkuk prompted calls from Gorran, the main opposition party to Barzani, for his resignation.

Gorran, or the Change Movement, supports the right of Iraq’s Kurds for self-determination but it opposed holding the referendum on September 25, saying the timing was ill-chosen.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday called for dialogue between the Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad, warning that tensions following last month’s Kurdish independence referendum should not become “another source of instability.”

“We understand the hopes of Kurdish people to strive and strengthen their identity ... but it would be right to realise these hopes through dialogue with the Iraqi government,” Lavrov said after talks with Iraqi counterpart Ebrahim Al Jaafari.

He said the issue should be addressed “with consideration of the need to avoid creating another source of instability in the region.”

“We don’t see war yet, and we hope that it won’t happen between the Kurds and government troops of Iraq,” Lavrov added.

He said Baghdad does not “reject” Kurds, ban their language or destroy their monuments, so “all components” are in place for them to figure out how to “live together in a unified Iraq”.

“The sides should decide if they will engage in direct dialogue or if they need some sort of intermediaries,” he added.