The Kurdistan Region held its first elections since the defeat of ISIS on the 30th September. As many as 773 candidates from 29 different parties were competing to win 111 seats in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. There are approximately 2.9 million eligible voters across the entire Kurdistan Region; 1,036,419 in Erbil Province, 1,134,760 in Sulaimaniyah Province, 677,797 in Duhok Province and 66,016 in Halabja Province.
Despite repeated calls by party leaders urging Kurdish citizens to turn up to vote, and the high turnout on Friday by the Kurdistan Region’s security forces, voter turnout on Sunday was considerably low. According to the Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (IHERC), the proportion of eligible voters who turned out was 57.2% across the Kurdistan Region. The voter turnout was highest in Duhok, with 61.9%, followed by Halabja with 60.9%, Erbil with 58.6% and Sulaimaniyah, which had the lowest turnout with 53% of the province.
The low turnout comes amid widespread allegations that various parties in the Kurdistan Region committed serious electoral violations during the national elections in May along with growing disillusionment by the public from Kurdish politics and political parties. This disillusionment has been evident throughout the Kurdistan Region over the last year, where mass protests and rioting shook a number of provinces in the Region. Therefore, the low turnout does not come as a major surprise to many observers.
Sulaimaniyah, which has arguably seen the most frequent protests in the Region, recorded one of the lowest turnout figures in recent history in Kurdish elections, suggesting that public disillusionment towards the Kurdish political class is highest there. This comes as the political scene in Sulaimaniyah is arguably at its most fractured, with a number of political factions vying for supremacy in the province.
“We believe that the results are all false and we are sure that the new government will not provide anything,” said one frustrated resident in the Kurdistan Region. These sentiments are widespread, particularly amongst youth in the region. During the next term of parliament, politicians and political parties in the Kurdistan Region must find ways to regain the trust of their constituents and restore integrity to the political system.