ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The US Consulate in Erbil on Monday welcomed the latest agreement between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) on the importance to hold parliamentary elections and to unify the Peshmerga.
“U.S. Consulate General – Erbil welcomes PUK and KDP agreement on holding IKP elections & support for Peshmerga unification & reform. We look forward to seeing progress as the two sides come together and negotiate the remaining issues to benefit the people of Iraqi Kurdistan,” read the tweet from the consulate.
On Sunday, the two ruling parties released a joint statement, following their third meeting since May, where they announced their support to hold the Region’s parliamentary elections at a date decided by the Kurdistan Region’s president.
In addition to announcing their support for holding the elections, the ruling parties also said they were ready to set aside their differences and work towards resolving their issues in all fields “to better serve the people of Kurdistan.”
The PUK and the KDP have been at loggerheads in recent years, leading to disagreements over the election law and electoral commission, which resulted in the delay of parliamentary elections. The Region’s parliament then extended its term for another year, sparking criticism both within the Kurdistan Region and from the government in Baghdad.
With Kurdish lawmakers having failed to reactivate the regional electoral commission before the self-extension and all decisions from the Kurdish parliament thereafter declared null by the Supreme Court, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has been tasked with carrying out the poll. The IHEC has stated that they will not be able to hold the elections later this year as the body is preparing for provincial council elections, suggesting the Kurdish polls be conducted on February 18, 2024.
Last week, the chief of staff of the Kurdistan Region presidency, Fawzi Hariri told Rudaw that President Barzani will set a day from February 2024 to hold the Region’s parliamentary elections, stressing that the poll cannot be held any later than February.
With the support of Western allies, particularly the United States, Kurdish authorities are implementing a reform process within the Peshmerga forces. The objective is to unify all units under the authority of the Peshmerga ministry, as some units are currently affiliated with the ruling political parties.
The US State Department on Thursday expressed concern that the tensions between KDP and the PUK have impacted the process of Peshmerga reforms.
The KDP and PUK have a fragile power-sharing agreement in the Kurdistan Region, despite being long-time rivals. Their disagreements on several issues have been escalating for over a year now, and it has hindered the political process. Although they were close to reconciliation in May, their argument in parliament and the dissolution of the legislature has put the process on hold.
The two parties have also recently sparred over the distribution of funds to provinces and the transparency of revenue in their areas of control.