There are about 40 political parties in the Iraqi Kurdistan region representing nationalist, socialist, Islamist and other interests.
The National Assembly represents all of Iraqi Kurdistan (Photo: Arif Zerevan)
Many of these parties emerged after the establishment of a Kurdish administration and a safe haven for the Kurds in northern Iraq in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.
The administration was led by the Kurdistan National Front - a coalition of six key political parties - until the 1992 legislative elections in the region.
The dominance of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was reflected in the results of the legislative elections.
With the promise of democracy and pluralism, the existing political parties and many of the new ones set up headquarters in the two main cities of Irbil and Sulaymaniyah.
1. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
The oldest and traditionally the most dominant of the two main Kurdish parties, led by Massoud Barzani. With a war in Iraq looming, it has come together with its traditional rival, the PUK, to divide governance equally in a power-sharing parliament.
2. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
The PUK enjoys particular support in the south-eastern areas of the Iraqi Kurdish region. Its leader from its inception in 1976 has been Jalal Talabani and, after varying fortunes, it has achieved an equal political footing with the other main Kurdish party, the KDP.
3. Assyrian national movement
The Assyrian national movement is dominated by the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a political party campaigning for the recognition of Assyrian national rights within the context of a democratic Iraq.
4. Islamist movement
The Islamist movement in Iraqi Kurdistan ranges from parties that focus on the provision of social services in rural areas, to the radical group, Ansar al-Islam, which is involved in violent opposition to one of the region's two major political parties and has been accused of having links to al-Qaeda.
5. Turkoman parties
The Turkoman of northern Iraq are represented by a mosaic of different parties, some of whom cooperate with the Kurdish authorities, while others look to Turkey for political support.
6. Kurdish 'satellite' parties
Less important in terms of size, there are a number of left-wing and conservative parties in Iraqi Kurdistan which are variously affiliated to the main parties, the KDP and PUK.
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