Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dispute Over Sulaymaniya’s Governor

For the last two months there has been a dispute over who should be the governor of Sulaymaniya, one of three provinces in Kurdistan. In January 2010 the governor Dana Ahmad Majid resigned, claiming that his party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was trying to control his decisions. Majid ended up quitting the PUK and joining the rival Change opposition list. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) parliament then appointed a new governor, Behrouz Kashani, and his two deputies. That angered the provincial council, who voted in May 2010 28 to 13 against Kashani becoming the new governor, saying that the KRG’s actions were illegal because Kashani was not voted into office, and he did not come from the council. Kashani replied that the council’s term ended in 2009, so they had no authority. In January 2009 Iraq held local elections, but the three Kurdish provinces abstained saying that they would hold their own vote. Since then the terms of the three Kurdish governorate councils have been extended.

The on going dispute has pushed many council members into the opposition, and may turn into a legal battle as well. Sulaymaniya’s council was controlled by the PUK, but many members have followed Majid’s example and left, joining the Change list, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, or the Kurdistan Islamic Group instead. The council chief, Kawa Abdalla, for example, is no longer a PUK member. The council has also asked the KRG to resolve the problem, but has gotten no response. That has pushed them to threaten to go to court, but the regional Prime Minister Barham Saleh tried to dissuade them from doing that by saying the argument over the governor was a political issue, not a legal one.

Sulaymaniya is the PUK’s base, and they are determined to hold onto control of it. That’s especially true because in the July 2009 vote for the KRG’s parliament, the rival Change List won a majority there. Now that some members of the province’s council have defected to other parties as well, the PUK must feel especially threatened. That makes them even less willing to compromise. The Kurdish provincial elections are slated for October 2010, and the dispute over the governor could drag out until then as a result.

SOURCES

AK News, “Parliament describes Sulaimaniya’s governor issue as “political,”” 7/1/10

Taha, Yaseen, “no signs of compromise in sulaimaniyah,” Niqash, 6/23/10

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