Iraq's Kurdistan region to hold elections on Sept. 30

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence last year in a referendum rejected by Baghdad, will hold an election on Sept. 30.

Kurdish region's Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

A Kurdistan Regional Government media official said KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani had approved the date.

The vote should elect both a parliament and a president for Kurdish regions which have gained self-rule in 1991, when a U.S-led coalition forced Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army to withdraw from them in the wake of his eight-month occupation of Kuwait.

A federal Iraqi election, which includes the Kurdistan region, is set to take place on Saturday and its results will give clues as to the importance of the different Kurdish political parties.

Longtime Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani stepped down from the KRG presidency on Nov. 1 after the independence referendum last September.

Opposition to the ruling Kurdish establishment, represented by the Barzani and Talabani dynasties, has become more vocal over the past years, especially after the referendum.

The Iraqi government and Shi’ite militias allied to Iran dislodged Kurdish forces from the oil region of Kirkuk in retaliation for the vote, curtailing the oil income of the KRG and leading to an economic crisis in the region.

Unpaid public servants hold regular demonstrations in Kurdish cities, and new parties have been formed to challenge the Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

The Kurdish elections were set for Nov. 1 but were delayed as the KRG had to deal with the conflict with Baghdad. Nechirvan Barzani has been exercising the function of the presidency since his uncle Masoud stepped down.

The current parliament was elected in 2013.

Gorran, or “Change” movement, and Barham Salih’s Coalition for Democracy and Justice are the main parties challenging the KDP and PUK’s grip on Iraqi Kurdish politics. Salih is himself an ex-KRG prime minister and a PUK dissenter.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; editing by Angus MacSwan