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Kurdistan's Gorran seeks to challenge PUK, KDP - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, is seen sitting behind a Kurdish flag prior to speaking to supporters in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil on May 26, 2013.  (AFP Photo / Safin Hamed)

Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, is seen sitting behind a Kurdish flag prior to speaking to supporters in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil on May 26, 2013. (AFP Photo / Safin Hamed)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdistan’s Gorran (Movement for Change) will seek to challenge the dominant Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in their heartland of Erbil at the forthcoming elections, according to a senior figure.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, senior Gorran official Yusuf Mohamed said: “Gorran is currently exerting all of its efforts to strengthen its election campaign in Erbil province, particularly as the movement has secured a strong position in Sulaymaniyah.”

“The vote in Erbil will decide the next elections,” he added.

Gorran’s challenge of the Kurdish political establishment comes at a time when the ruling PUK-KDP alliance has broken down, allowing smaller Kurdish groups to challenge the political coalition that has kept a tight grip on the Kurdish Region Government (KRG) since the last elections.

“The election results in Dohuk and Erbil provinces will surprise everybody,” Yusuf Mohamed said.

A second Kurdish source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that following the breakup of the ruling PUK-KDP coalition, the Kurdish electoral map is unpredictable.

“Although we cannot deny the influence of Barzani’s KDP in Dohuk and Erbil provinces, I believe that Erbil in particular will be a critical factor in the elections,” the source said.

For his part, senior Gorran official Yusuf Mohamed confirmed that the Kurdistan Region capital will be a key battleground, saying “everybody needs to win there.”

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Barzani’s party is trying to affirm its influence in [Erbil], while the PUK is seeking to restore its popularity there and Gorran is also trying to strengthen its presence in the region.”

The KRG’s legislative and provincial elections are scheduled to take place on September 21. The KDP and PUK had contested the 2005 and 2009 elections as part of a coalition. This was a result of the so-called “strategic agreement” between the two parties signed in July 2007, which itself was based on the 1998 Washington Agreement. However Kurdistan’s ruling parties are set to run the forthcoming elections on separate lists, potentially opening up the scene to political parties that have remained firmly on the sidelines over the past 8 years.

In related news, KRG Vice President Kosrat Rasul Ali and Kurdistan Parliamentary Speaker Arslan Bayez have been accused of taking advantage of their official positions by taking part in election campaigning. Tariq Jawhar Sarmami, senior media adviser to the speaker of the Kurdistan parliament, strongly denied the reports.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Sarmami said: “We publicly confirm that neither figure have exploited their positions,” adding “They have exercised their legitimate rights as party leaders to take part in the election campaign.”

“We stress that the head of the KRG list and all of its members are complying with regulations and laws regarding election campaigning and will work to ensure transparent and honest parliamentary elections that express the will of the people,” he added.