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Kurdistan parliamentary elections preliminary results show KDP ahead - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Employees of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) take part in vote counting at an analysis centre in Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, about 230 miles north of Baghdad, on September 22, 2013. (REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)

Employees of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) take part in vote counting at an analysis centre in Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, about 230 miles north of Baghdad, on September 22, 2013. (REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—The preliminary results of Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Kurdistan have suggested that the opposition Movement for Change (Gorran) has made significant gains in areas known to be strongholds of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Gorran has also overtaken Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), pushing it into third place, exit polls suggested.

Leaked parliamentary results showed that the KDP has won 35 seats, with 29 seats going to Gorran and 18 seats to the PUK. According to the same leaked results the Islamic Union won 12 seats, while five were won by the Jama’ah Islamiyah. Both the Islamic Union and Jama’ah Islamiyah are part of the Kurdish opposition front.

While a Kurdish source noted that opposition parties had amassed more seats than the winning party, winning 46 seats to the KDP’s 35, leading to the possibility of the next government being formed under the leadership of the opposition. But sources inside the opposition played down this possibility.

A leading figure in the Jama’ah Islamiyah said: “The available option is to form a coalition government including the KDP and the opposition,” adding that “the opposition needs an ally from the winning parties to be able to form a government.”

It is also difficult to predict what the future holds for the PUK. The Iraqi president’s party slipped from second to third place in the Kurdistan Regional Government, losing a large number of seats to the opposition Gorran Party, its biggest rival.

However, the PUK may still rely on its strategic relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani’s KDP party. Its leaders hope to keep their position in authority beside the KDP.

The Rudaw website, which is close to Nechervan Barzani, the KDP’s second in command and prime minister of the outgoing government, revealed that “the leadership of the [KDP] party sent a reassuring message to the leadership of the PUK, assuring them that their strategic alliance will continue whatever the election results.”

A number of prominent PUK figures have made statements in recent months about their desire to amend the strategic agreement signed between the two parties in 2006. However, their desire to amend the strategic agreement in favour of the PUK seems unlikely to be fulfilled after their party’s election defeat.

A prominent source speaking on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the PUK must give concessions to its strategic ally, the KDP, to ensure the strategic alliance continues.”

In a speech at the end of the elections, Massoud Barzani called on all political parties to “accept the election results,” adding, “The success of the parliamentary elections is a great victory for the people of Kurdistan.”

Barzani said: “I call on all people to celebrate calmly, and I call on all parties and political forces which participated in the elections to accept the results which the independent elections commission will announce.”

Meanwhile, the leader of Gorran, Nawshirwan Mustafa, congratulated the people of Kurdistan on the success of the elections. He said in a statement to Kurdish television that “the success of the elections was a great political victory for our people in Kurdistan, and in this process, we are all winners. We must strengthen the brotherly and cooperative bonds to build a new phase in the political life of the Kurdistan region.”

The official spokesman for the political bureau of the PUK, Azad Jundiani, thanked the people of Kurdistan for their participation in the elections. He called for “the elections to be a new model for all future elections in Kurdistan, and for all to be conducted in the same civilized manner. We in the PUK consider the success of the elections a priority, and despite some shortcomings, nothing can take away from the victory achieved by the people.”

Ma’ad Fayad contributed reporting.