ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Police, Peshmerga, and other security force members poured onto the streets of Sulaimani city, protesting against the Iraqi parliament’s recent decision to cancel all "special," or early voting in the Kurdistan Region for the May 12 election.
Security forces across Iraq, needed to protect voting centers, cast their ballots the day before the election.
“We want our votes to be counted like any other people in the country,” a Peshmerga member told Kurdistan 24 during a live broadcast. “We condemn the decision of Iraqi parliament to void our votes.”
The demonstration took place in front of the office of Sulaimani's Provincial Council, where participants asked council members to deliver their concerns to Iraq's President and Supreme Court.
One week earlier, as a result of widespread claims of electoral fraud, Baghdad's parliament passed a resolution to freeze the work of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), order a manual recount of votes throughout the country, and cancel votes cast in displacement camps and abroad.
Article 3 of the decision also states that "special voting in the Kurdistan Region will be canceled," but does not offer an explanation as to why early voting was canceled only in the region, and not the rest of Iraq.
The June 6 parliament session was boycotted by lawmakers from the two leading Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Other Kurdish parties including Gorran (Change), Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), New Generation, Kurdistan Communist Party, and Kurdistan Islamic Movement (KIM) praised the parliament’s bill.
These less prominent lists have repeatedly expressed their strong concerns about the election results, claiming massive fraud took place in the Kurdistan Region, namely in Sulaimani Province.
Protestors raised multiple banners, some of them targeting Kurdish party leaders for supporting the nullification of their votes.
“I freely voted for the party I wanted. No one has pressured me to vote for a specific party or a candidate. Canceling all the special votes is collective punishment, and it is an illegal move,” a member of the police said.
Some Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi Parliament who attended the event promised protesters to pass their grievances on to Iraqi President Fuad Masum, on behalf of Sulaimani Provincial Council.
There are hundreds of thousands of Peshmerga, Asayesh, police, and other security forces in the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by John J. Catherine