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History of parliament

The Kurdistan National Assembly (later renamed parliament) was established in 1992, in the first free and fair elections ever held in the Kurdistan Region or in any part of Iraq. The election was held just a year after the Kurdish Uprising of March 1991, when the people rose up against the Ba'ath regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the liberation of Kuwait.

The city of Slemani in the Kurdish Uprising of 1991

The people of Kurdistan, as well as their political parties and leaders, wanted to hold their first ever democratic election, after decades of brutal dictatorship under the Iraqi central government. This was made possible by the no-fly zone created by the US, UK and France above the 36th line of latitude, which prevented attacks by Saddam Hussein's forces.

The people were hit by an international UN embargo on all of Iraq, including Kurdistan. Kurdistan also urgently needed an administration and legislature to fill the vacuum when Saddam Hussein withdrew his administration, and placed his own internal embargo on Kurdistan that stopped food and fuel supplies, disconnected electrical power and prevented the movement of people to other parts of the country.  

Faced with the administrative vacuum and double embargo, the Kurdistan Front, an alliance of diverse political groups in the Kurdistan Region, decided to hold a general election. Their goal was to establish an administration to provide for essential public services and to meet the basic needs of the people. The population also expressed a strong desire to choose its representatives.

The election, held on 19 May 1992, was the first free and fair parliamentary election in the history of Iraq. A minimum seven percent threshold was set for representation in the parliament. Voter turnout was very high and the elections were deemed to be free, fair, and democratic by international observers. After decades of dictatorship, the people in Kurdistan were able to vote for their representatives for the first time in their history.

This regional election led to the formation of the first Kurdistan National Assembly and the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The leadership and the people of the Kurdistan Region decided to adopt and abide by all Iraqi laws except for those that violated human and universal rights. By 15 July 1992, the Kurdistan National Assembly had convened. Law No. 1, the first law passed by the assembly, established the Assembly as the Region’s legislature.

To date there have been five region-wide parliaments, following elections in 1992, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2018.

In 2009 the Kurdistan National Assembly was renamed the Kurdistan Parliament.

Jawhar Namiq was the first Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament

Jawhar Namiq was the first Speaker of the first Kurdistan Parliament in 1992

Changes to parliament

There are 111 seats in the parliament (as stipulated by Law No. 1 passed in 1992). In February 2009 several amendments were made to the Kurdistan election law to increase the inclusiveness of all groups. The minimum age of parliamentary candidates was lowered from 30 to 25. The legal minimum quota of female parliamentarians was increased from 25 percent to 30 percent of the legislature. While seats had already been reserved in previous elections for minority communities, for the Christian and Turkmen parties this was increased to five seats each, and one seat for Armenian parties.