Iraqi Kurds to elect new parliament on July 25
05 May 2009
by Shamal Aqrawi
ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdish region has set an election for its regional parliament for July 25, a senior official said Tuesday.
“I call (on candidates) to understand and respect political diversity … Political groups have the freedom to campaign but not to defame others,” Massoud Barzani, president of the northern Kurdistan region, told the regional parliament.
Kurdish officials have blamed budgetary and technical problems for a delay in holding the election which was originally planned for May 19.
For years, Kurdistan has been tightly controlled by two parties headed by Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Minority Kurds, who were persecuted by former leader Saddam Hussein, were outside Baghdad’s control in the 1990s and enjoy autonomy over domestic affairs under the Iraqi constitution enacted after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam in 2003.
Barzani called for a second election to take place immediately after the parliamentary poll to choose a president for the region. The president is currently chosen by lawmakers.
Barzani, Kurdish president since 2005, said he would not stand for another term unless this second vote was held.
A rift has grown over the past year between Kurdish leaders and the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad as the two sides struggle for control of oil resources and disputed territories.
Iraq is due to hold an election for its national parliament, in which Kurds have a major voice, at the end of 2009.