On 21st of September 2017, the first municipal elections organized by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) took place in northern Syria in territories under their control. Thereby, administrative committees for the municipalities of the Kurdish regions were elected. Local elections will be held in November this year, before PYD will hold parliamentary elections for the entire Kurdish region in Syria, which comprises the three areas of Jazire, Kobani and Afrin, in January 2018.
The fact that the PYD would emerge as the winner of these elections, was already clear before their implementation. Not because of their popularity but because real opposition parties – such as those which work together in the Kudish National Council – will not compete at the ballot box. The election law, which was passed by the PYD, respectively by its legislative councils, in April 2014, systematically excludes opposition parties from elections.
On the one hand, the commissions, which decide about the admission of parties at the local level, are not independent bodies, but exclusively staffed with PYD-related representatives. On the other hand, parties which have links to foreign groups can not be registered. This regulation was introduced, to be able to prohibit parties, such as the Democratic Party Kurdistan – Syria (PDK-S), which is the sister party of the Iraqi Kurdish KDP and one of the most popular parties in Syrian Kurdistan, if they should seek a registration. It is ignored that the PYD itself is the Syrian branch of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Another characteristic of the double standards of the PYD is the regulation that parties in Syrian Kurdistan are not allowed to maintain any military forces. What seems like a positive step towards a demilitarization of the society, should in fact, secure the monopoly of power of the people’s defense units (YPG), which is the militia of the PYD.
The conduction of the elections on the 21st of September 2017 was far from democratic: in order to achieve a high electoral participation, the people in the region were systematically put under pressure. Hence, all eligible voters received a certificate of participation at the ballot box. In the future this certificate is necessary for everyday matters such as the registration of a car, a new apartment or the land registry after the purchase of a house. In addition, it is only possible with the voting certificate to buy subsidized petrol. Due to these regulations, non-voters and PYD critics are publicly exposed and their participation in public life becomes more and more difficult. It is also problematic that the candidates who should be elected, were all presented as “independents”. Their party membership, however, was not mentioned in the election documents.
Because of the PYD’s instrumentalization of elections to legitimize authoritarian structures, the Kurdish National Council had called for the boycott of the elections.