Iraqi Kurdistan Elections Cement Barzani’s Role as Regional Powerbroker

Iraqi Kurdistan Elections Cement Barzani’s Role as Regional Powerbroker

Parliamentary elections held Sept. 21 in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq further cemented the undisputed leadership of the regional government’s president, Massoud Barzani. Reigning supreme in Iraqi Kurdistan, dominating the political scene in Iraq and enjoying his status as a major Western go-between in Syria, Barzani has become a key political figure to watch in the Middle East this year.

The official results are not out, but early exit polls point to a sound victory for Barzani’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the voting. They also indicate that the KDP’s coalition partner, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was decisively beaten at the polls by the opposition party Gorran, or Movement for Change, of Nawshirwan Mustafa. Gorran seized the PUK’s core territory, the city of Sulaimaniyah, after an already strong showing there in 2009.

For the PUK, one of the oldest and most influential parties in Kurdish history, the obituaries can now be written. It never managed to overcome the split of Gorran from its ranks in 2009 and the loss of its leader, Jalal Talabani, reportedly declared clinically dead in January after a stroke and currently in intensive care in Berlin. The fact that this year all parties ran individually, unlike in 2009 when the KDP and PUK formed a joint ticket, dealt the PUK a death blow.

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