Election will see hundreds of candidates vie for 111 seats on region’s legislative assembly
By Ali Mohamed ERBIL, Iraq
The campaigning period for parliamentary elections in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region officially began on Tuesday.

Slated for Sept. 30, the poll will see more than 700 candidates — organized into two main coalitions — compete for 100 out of 111 seats on the region’s legislative assembly.

Another 64 candidates are set to vie for the remaining 11 seats, which are reserved for non-Kurdish minorities (five seats for Turkmen, five for Syriac Christians and one for an Armenian representative).

Candidates will compete for votes in the Iraqi provinces of Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Halabja, the latter of which became the region’s fourth province in 2014.

All residents of the region over 18 years old are entitled to vote by secret ballot, with the number of registered voters estimated at some 3.1 million.

The Erbil-based Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Sulaymaniyah-based Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — both of which are currently represented in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) — will be among the most prominent parties vying for votes.

Leading opposition parties, meanwhile, include the Movement for Change (Gorran), the Alliance for Democracy and Justice, the New Generation Movement and the Islamic Group.

In the region’s last parliamentary poll in 2013, the KDP came in first with 38 seats, followed by Gorran (24 seats), the PUK (18 seats), the Islamic Union (10 seats) and the Islamic Group (six seats).

The region’s first parliamentary election was held in 1992, followed by three subsequent polls in 2005, 2009 and 2013.

The upcoming election was initially slated for last year, but was postponed due to deep-seated political differences and a bloody conflict pitting the Iraqi army against the notorious Daesh terrorist group.