World Bulletin / News Desk
In Iraq’s last general election in 2014, political parties based in the Kurdish region clinched a total of 62 seats in the country’s national assembly.
Forty-four candidates from Kurdish parties were elected in the provinces of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, while another 18 were elected in territories disputed between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), including Kirkuk, Mosul and Diyala.
Previously, Kurdish parties had enjoyed considerable influence in disputed areas, where standards of living had been relatively higher than in other parts of Iraq.
The situation, however, has taken a turn for the worse in recent years due to chronic economic problems, the emergence of the ISIL terrorist group and mounting tensions between the Erbil-based KRG and Baghdad.
First, Erbil suffered from budget cuts imposed by the central government. It sustained another major blow in 2013 with the emerge of ISIL, which overran much of northern and western Iraq the following year.
Already reeling from chronic financial problems and the new terrorist threat, the Kurdish region suffered another setback last year when the KRG conducted an unconstitutional referendum on regional independence.
Following the illegitimate poll, federal forces moved into disputed parts of Iraq while Peshmerga forces loyal to the KRG withdrew from these areas.
Many people in the Kurdish region blame the referendum debacle on the region’s two main political parties: the Erbil-based Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Sulaymaniyah-based Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).