photo: Eddy van Wessel


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Expect change in Iraq when embattled Kurds cast ballots

The dust seems to be settling somewhat over Iraq's Kurdistan Region, but fallout from the discord among Kurds, and with the central government, could still be considerable come election time.
Thousands of demonstrators protested for months, and hundreds of civil servants have been on strike in several cities over delayed and reduced pay. Teachers and health care workers in Sulaimaniyah agreed this week to end or suspend their strikes after meeting with administrators, though details about the financial situation apparently have yet to be worked out. Those workers also voiced their anger because what money Baghdad had provided was being doled out among all of Kurdistan’s civil servants — none of whom had been paid since September. As a result, nobody received a full salary.

The protests have been most prominent in Kurdish areas not dominated by the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) — areas such as Sulaimaniyah, where tents were erected in front of the local courthouse, allowing people to participate in huge demonstrations. In other cities such as Rania, Koya and Kifri — where the KDP is less popular than the other ruling party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the opposition to those ruling parties — hospitals and schools closed.

More significantly still, hundreds of protesters also hit the streets in KDP-ruled towns like Erbil and Dahuk, undeterred by local authorities refusing to grant them permits. Anti-government protests are rare in KDP territory, where discontent is hardly ever expressed openly for fear of retribution. But that fear didn't keep people from protesting this time, and it's not expected to discourage them from voting their minds in the May elections for a new Iraqi government. Their impact is expected to be even greater during Kurdistan parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for September.

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