Kurdistan Region — Peshmerga, police and security forces in Sulaimani filled its streets on Wednesday protesting the annulment of their votes in Iraq’s parliamentary election and accusing certain parties from the Kurdistan Region of being complicit.
Arez Abdulla, an outgoing PUK MP in Baghdad who spoke at the protest, described the annulment of the Peshmerga votes as “collective punishment.”
Abdullah said those who pushed for the bill to be passed are “short-sighted” and such efforts won’t succeed.
“As Peshmerga forces, we are expressing our anger at those sides wanting to shatter the prestige of the Peshmerga and wanting to annul the special votes in order to compensate for the loss they suffered in the election,” a Peshmerga soldier, told Rudaw.
Parliament has approved a bill that orders a manual recount of all votes from polling stations nationwide. The results of early voting by security personnel in the Kurdistan Region and by the diaspora have also been thrown out.
The move drew praise by multiple parties based in the Kurdistan Region like the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), the Change Movement (Gorran), the Kurdistan Islamic League (Komal), the Kurdistan Communist Party, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Kurdistan Islamic Movement (IMK) and the New Generation.
“We declare our support for the important and historic step taken by the Iraqi parliament to respond to voters and political parties over electronic fraud and hooliganism targeting peoples’ votes, and tampering with the result of the election held on May 12 in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region,” the group jointly stated last week.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) condemned the decision — the two won 25 and 18 seats, respectively, in the election, according to Iraq’s High Independent Electoral Commission (IHEC).
The results are currently disputed, IHEC commissioners were alleged to have been complicit in vote rigging, and the Council of Ministers for the High Judicial Council to investigate the burning of ballots in Baghdad.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday such acts cause “people to lose trust in all elections” and called a proposed re-run of the election “a legislative matter.”
The protesting Peshmerga accused the six parties of “not fighting for, but confiscating the very basic rights of Peshmerga, which is voting.”
“Is it their staunchness and loyalty to the Peshmerga?” posited one protesting Peshmerga.
Others could be heard saying “we will not allow the conspiracy to work.”
The PUK describes the June 6 decree by the parliament, supported by the six dissatisfied parties, as "treason" against the vote of Peshmerga and Kirkuk, where the party had won 6 seats, the most among any party or list.
Others banners at the protest read “the vote of Peshmerga is the weight of the Peshmerga” and “the fruit of the June 6 treason was against Peshmerga and Kirkuk.”
“The cancellation of the special votes is equal to the breaking of the reputation of Peshmerga and that move is a red line for us,” said another angry Peshmerga.
Following Gorran’s poor performance in the election, its headquarters in Sulaimani was shot up. Gorran holds the PUK security forces responsible, but their commanders have denied involvement.
Sulaimani and Kirkuk have long been the PUK’s powerbases. Gorran’s founder Nawshirwan Mustafa broke away from the PUK in 2009. Gorran holds more seats than the PUK in the Kurdistan Region’s parliament, but the PUK has held more in the Iraqi capital. Both the PUK and Gorran lost their leaders in 2017.
Under Gorran founder Nawshirwan Mustafa, Gorran won nine seats in the 2014 Iraqi election. In 2018, they took five, according to the disputed results.