The Kurdish parliament has not convened since October 2015 when the security forces in Erbil blocked the speaker from returning to the capital where the parliament is located. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The Kurdish parliament in Erbil will be reopened in a month’s time and a long-anticipated referendum on independence from Iraq will be held in September, says deputy speaker of parliament Jaafar Ibrahim.
Ibrahim says that months of meetings and negotiations between Kurdish parties have led to an understanding that the parliament must reopen which he believes might happen by June.
"There is good mutual understanding on this question. I think the parliament will be reactivated in a month," he told Rudaw in an interview.
Ibrahim who is from the Kurdistan Democratic Party said that the negotiations didn’t always go well, hence the delay in reactivating the parliament that has been defunct since October 2015.
“The climate is currently positive,” he said. “There are serious efforts to reactivate the parliament. Therefore, I don’t wish to blame any party. I believe this is to be a collective duty.”
Ibrahim believes that efforts led by the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and a roadmap presented by Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani managed to bring all parties on board and restoring trust among them.
“I think we are closer than we have ever been to a solution,” he said confidently.
Ibrahim went on to say that when the parliament was active before October 2015, it laid the foundation work for the referendum by setting up “the commission and referendum law,”
“The commission has full power to do this,” he maintained. “Holding a referendum is the same as holding a general election. The difference is that holding the referendum is simpler and easier. That is why the referendum has no legal problems.”
Ibrahim said that “Kurds or anyone from Iraqi Kurdistan living anywhere in or outside Iraq can participate in the referendum,” adding that the vote will also include all areas that were part of Article 140 and have been under Kurdish control since 2014.
The deputy speaker of parliament explained that Erbil could have held talks with Baghdad on future borders between the two countries but that “Under current circumstances, an agreement like this with Iraq is unlikely to be made. We can’t have such an agreement given the mistrust between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad.”
“Therefore we should just listen to the will of the people of Kurdistan,” Ibrahim concluded.
The KDP is of the view that approval from the Kurdish parliament is not needed to call the referendum.
The Kurdish parliament has not convened since October 2015 when the security forces in Erbil, largely under the control of the KDP, blocked the speaker, a Gorran party member, from returning to the capital where the parliament is located.
The row between the the KDP and Gorran worsened when protests broke out in areas under the influence of the Gorran Movement in Sulaimani province in October 2015 leading to the deaths of several KDP members. The KDP accused Gorran of orchestrating the violenet protests. Gorran denied the accusations.
The tensions between the two parties had also remained strained when the speaker Yousif Mohammed refused to cancel a parliament session planned to discuss President Masoud Barzani's second-term in office which was due to expire on August 19.
Gorran, which is the second-biggest party in Kurdistan in terms of seats in the parliament, along with the PUK, Islamic Union, and the Islamic Group (Komal) — all members of the Kurdish coalition government — say they are in favor of the referendum, but it must have a mandate from the parliament.