By Miran Hussein. This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Now that Massoud Barzani has ensured he is Iraqi Kurdistan’s President for another two years, many are wondering if he’s actually gunning for an even better job: President of Iraq. And if so, when will he move to Baghdad?
Through clever sleight of legislation, Iraqi Kurdistan’s President has managed to extend his term in office, which was supposed to finish at the end of August 2013, for a further two years. And now some are saying it’s just preparation for Massoud Barzani’s next job: President of Iraq.
The current President of Iraq is another Iraqi Kurdish politician, Jalal Talabani. The government of Iraqi Kurdistan is dominated by two major parties, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, the KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, which Talabani heads. The two parties have agreed to share power in the semi-autonomous region, which has its own parliament, military and legislation- and this includes splitting important political positions.
But Talabani, generally considered the elder statesman of Iraqi Kurdish politics, has not been well for some time and locals suggest that Barzani may like to take his place soon.
Having made a big effort to remain in power until Iraq’s next parliamentary elections – slated for 2014 – he will then be able to swap the presidency of Iraqi Kurdistan for that of Iraq. In this way Barzani will retain a senior post for the Iraqi Kurdish people.
“That’s why Barzani was kept in the current job: it’s to keep the position of the Iraqi presidency open for the Iraqi Kurdish,” a senior politician and strategist with the PUK, Fareed Asrad, told NIQASH. “It is also meant to help solve the current political crisis around the region’s presidency.”
After all if Barzani is nominated for the job and has to go to Baghdad, then his old job will open up and this would resolve the conflict around the Iraqi Kurdish presidency: many believe Barzani should not be allowed to keep this job for another two years.
The only problem would be the long standing agreement between the PUK and KDP that says that if one party holds the regional presidency then the other should have the national one. This may need to be renegotiated, Asrad notes.
Out in federal Iraq itself, some Iraqi MPs have already said they’d support the idea of Barzani becoming Iraq’s president.
After Barzani’s recent visit to Baghdad where he met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and where the pair demonstrated notably warmer relations, some reports in the Kurdish media said that al-Maliki had already asked Barzani to nominate himself for the Iraqi presidency and that in return, he expected Barzani to support his own ambitions to become Prime Minister for another term.
“In general terms, we have good relations with Barzani and the Kurdish and we would have no problem if Barzani was to become president,” Ali al-Shala, an MP for al-Maliki’s State of Law party, told NIQASH. But, he added, that there was actually nothing concrete to report and that members of his party hadn’t discussed this matter at all, as far as he knew.
“Barzani’s strong personality makes him a good candidate for the job,” says Talal al-Zobaie, an MP for the opposition’s Iraqiya List. “He has the ability to work for all Iraqi political parties and he can play a major role in safeguarding the country’s interests.”
However there are others who think Barzani is unsuitable because he has been openly confrontational with the current central government, and those confrontations have verged on military.
Alia Nassif, an MP for the Iraqiya list, is one of these. She doesn’t think Barzani has any chance of getting Talabani’s job. “Talabani has an Iraqi identity,” Nassif explains. “He was representing all of Iraq. But Barzani can’t do that, he sees things only from the Kurdish point of view and from the point of view of his party. That’s why he’s not suitable to hold this position.”
And what do Barzani and his party think of all this rampant speculation? There’s no real indication – the only thing that is certain is that it hasn’t been mentioned in any serious way – yet.
Iraqi Kurdish MP Abdul Salam Barrawi told NIQASH he didn’t think it was uppermost in Barzani’s mind right now. “Barzani has said on several occasions that he doesn’t want to go to Baghdad and that he only wants to serve Kurdistan,” Barrawi says. He notes that it’s something that Barzani might start thinking seriously about once his current two years as Iraqi Kurdish President are up.