Two prominent parties in northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have accused each other of fraud in the parliamentary elections held Sunday.
Khasrou Goran, a leading member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP), the largest party in the semi-autonomous region's parliament, issued a statement Sunday saying that the party has filed complaints.
"There has been a lot of fraud in some places. We as the KDP haven't been satisfied with the entire process," Goran said. Pointing out that the political parties were oppressed, Goran emphasized that representatives were beaten and threatened in some polling stations.
"We hope the commission fairly, legally and transparently deals with the complaints filed by the political parties without bias or without accepting any pressure," he added.
In response to Goran's comments, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the KDP's traditional political rival, stated Sunday that it would not recognize the election results due to allegations of tampering with the elections. However, the party later backtracked from its promise following the remarks of deputy prime minister of the KRG, Qubad Talabani, who is a PUK member, saying that "it is too early to reject the election's results."
Local media reported yesterday that the KDP was leading, with official results yet to be released. The KDP holds 38 out of the 111 seats in the current parliament elected in 2013.
Rivalries between the KDP and PUK, which have been respectively dominated by the Barzani and Talabani families, have dominated the region's politics for decades since it gained a semi-autonomous status in the 1991 Gulf War. The PUK has been arguing for better relations with the Iraqi government, while the KDP has been insisting on independence for the region.
In relation to the same issue, the main opposition Gorran Movement also voiced its concerns of meddling in the election process. In a statement issued by Gorran, the party accused the PUK of forcing election administrators to allow people to vote with fraudulent certificates. Reportedly, people tried to use fake identification, and representatives of some polling stations were forced to leave and threatened. Accordingly, elections monitors reported that "a large number of security forces were present inside voting centers," which is considered a violation of election law and would lead to the nullification of votes casted in the relevant voting center. This is the first time that the region has held parliamentary elections following the turbulent years that the region was shaken by the fight against Daesh and the fallout of the KDP-driven referendum for independence which provoked the loss of territory to the Iraqi government last year. More than 3.1 million people were eligible to vote in the parliamentary elections; yet, the turnout was significantly low compared to the 72 percent turnout in the referendum for independence. The low participation is attributed to the referendum's disastrous results contrary to overwhelming support for independence and to never-ending allegations of fraud in the previous elections made by the KDP and the PUK.
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