But a day later, many of their supporters took to the streets, fired into the air in celebration and claimed a victory that astonished many and angered the PUK’s own rival, the Change Movement (Gorran).
An opposition election monitor in Sulaimani told Rudaw on condition of anonymity that, “A group of armed men stormed the vote counting center and kicked us out. Some of us hid inside the washrooms.”
“The armed men also tampered with the ballot boxes,” he added.
PUK deputy secretary Barham Salih appealed to his party supporters to wait for the final results and avoid all confrontations.
“We said in our last statement that the PUK will honor the people’s voice and in light of the final results it will revisit its own policies and style of work,” Salih wrote on his Facebook page.
Salih added, “But this means that the people of Kurdistan do not approve of the PUK’s policies and way of administration at this stage and that they reject it.”
On Monday, there were reports from Sulaimani that a number of armed men had stormed two of the stations where members of the election commission were counting Saturday’s ballots.
It was said that the armed men had tried to expel the staff of the commission in order to tamper with the votes.
This led to angry protests by members of the Gorran movement, who said that they would not accept any change in the votes. At the same time, supporters of the PUK took to the streets in celebration.
“We must pay attention to this message and not block our ears,” said Salih, referring to his party’s unsatisfactory record at this round of elections. “We should do a grassroots reassessment of our policies and hope that people will give us back their trust in the next election.”
Also on Sunday night, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani spoke in a telephone conversation with Gorran leader Nawshirwan Mustafa and Muhammad Rauf, a senior Islamic Union leader, about the incidents in Sulaimani.
Dana Saeed Sofi, a PUK MP, wrote on his Facebook page that, “After this defeat the PUK should learn a lesson and revise its policies and major organs.”
“The party should form some kind of internal court and cleanse itself of people who use the PUK as a company to enrich themselves,” he added.
Diyar Mufti, a member of the PUK’s central bureau, said that it is better if his party becomes an active opposition group following Saturday’s election.
“Our party should also hold a convention to identify the cause of its defeat and later work on them,” he said.
Hadi Ali, the former second man in the Islamic Union, also says that the party’s influence is receding dramatically.
“Due to lack of a clear strategy and lame political agenda, the Islamic Union is taking one step forward and two backwards,” Ali wrote in an article.
He argued that in the lead-up to the 2009 parliamentary elections, the Islamic Union did a great job bringing together discontented parties and that “it should have continued to lead all opposition groups the same way.”
“The Islamic Union turned its back on the other opposition groups and said in their election campaign that they had nothing to do with the opposition and were ready to join the government,” said Ali. “This way, they disappointed their own followers.”
So far, the Islamic Union seems to be the second winner in Duhok province. But Ali said that, overall, the group’s votes have fallen sharply compared to the past elections.
“But the leaders of the party are unwilling to admit this,” said Ali. “They try to cover up the defeat by speaking of forgiveness and shouldering the responsibility.”
Meanwhile, Muhammad Hajji, had of Gorran’s political relations, said that if his party joins the next government it must have “a role in making political decisions and be (active) across all government files.”
“We will not join a government in which we are marginalized and are expected to be content with just salaries,” he told Rudaw.
Hajji said that his party is so far coming out in second place behind the KDP in votes, and that participation in the government, “Is their right and not some kind of charity bestowed upon them as a favor by someone else.”
Hajji confirmed earlier indications by Gorran leaders that they will join the new government once all votes have been counted.
“And if we can’t join the government, we will remain an opposition much stronger than we were in the past four years,” he vowed.