29 July 2015 22:23 (Last updated 29 July 2015 22:25)
Barzani's term to expire on August 20 while parliament now poised to extend his mandate for the second time
Talks of rapprochement between various political parties in Iraq’s Kurdish region have recently been taking place in the run-up to the expiry of Masoud Barzani’s presidential term on August 20, which is also the date set for Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) presidential election.
Barzani, who is KRG president and also leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), intends to run for a new presidential term with the support of his party.
Rival Kurdish parties, however – including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Movement for Change (known as “Gorran” in Kurdish) – want Barzani’s powers to be reduced and the KRG and Kurdish parliament strengthened.
In hopes of achieving this, the PUK and Gorran both submitted a draft presidency law to parliament on June 23, but Barzani’s KDP – along with Turkmen and Christian MPs – boycotted the session, causing friction between the KDP on one hand and the PUK and Gorran on the other.
The KDP, for its part, supports the current system, in which the president is chosen by a public vote. The other two parties, meanwhile, think the president should be chosen by parliament.
But the PUK and Gorran have not been able to convince other parties.
The Islamic Unity Party (Yekgirt) and the Islamic Society Party (Komala Islam), along with Turkmens and Christian MPs, have begun working together.
Currently, with only 38 MPs, the KDP needs 56 additional seats to secure Barzani’s reelection. Yekgirt, with only ten seats in the assembly, is expected to support the KDP.
“ Barzani has a lot of authority, but he hasn’t used it. Most of the time, he takes the party's view into consideration.Barzani moves according to the party’s political agenda,” Aydin Maruf, an MP for the Iraqi Turkmen Front, told Anadolu Agency.
KDP Deputy Chairman Nechervan Barzani met with the Gorran, Yekgirt and Komala Islam parliamentary blocs in hopes of resolving the political crisis.
“The parties must reach a compromise. There can be no reconciliation unless the parties meet,” Umit Hosnav, president of the KDP’s parliamentary bloc, said.
“We'll meet to draft a law governing the presidential election and restrict the powers of those elected,” he added.
In a recent statement, the KDP's political bureau asserted: "It is normal that President Barzani should continue his duty until the next general election. Barzani must have the authority. This is the compromise and we must fulfill the legal requirements.”
“If we fail to reach a solution, it may harm our nation,” the KDP president said in a recent statement. “We must heed the people's will. The issue should be solved [i.e., the president should be selected] via public vote.”
- Discussions on the draft law at the parliament
Vala Ferit, president of the KRG’s Parliament Act Commission, said: “I reject the draft law on the presidential election and powers. I will not work for this bill… because this demand isn’t legal but political."
Begerd Dilsad, President of PUK’s parliamentary bloc, said the KDP wanted to extend Barzani's presidential mandate by two more years.
“We demand a law reducing the president's authority,” he said. “And we want presidential election to be held in parliament.”
“The Parliament Act Commission plans to prepare a draft law on this issue,” he added. “Parliament should exercise its authority and find a solution to the issue of presidential election.”
PUK Politburo spokesman Imad Ahmed, for his part, said: "There are different opinions on the issue... This is a national issue that should be resolved via consensus... If a solution is reached in parliament, we will support it.”
He added: “We agree with the parties on the need for a parliamentary system, but there are disagreements regarding how the president is elected.”
Yekgirt Vice President Mohamed Ahmed said: “Like all other parties, Yekgirt favors the election of the regional president by parliament... None of the parties disagree on this issue. But views differ as to how elections ought to be conducted.”
Barzani was elected president by public vote in 2005. When his mandate expired in 2013, the KRG parliament extended it until August 20, 2015. Parliament is now poised to extend Barzani's mandate for the second time.
The 111-seat Kurdish Regional Parliament is currently shared between the KDP (38 seats), Gorran (24 seats), the KYB (18 seats), Yekgirt (10 seats) and Komela Islam (6 seats). The remaining 15 seats in the assembly are held by various other small parties.