For the second time the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has offered to re-instate the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) parliament, which has been closed since October 2015. The KDP first said it would bring back the legislature in August, but it never happened. Now it made a new deal for mid-September, but it has already pushed back the date. This was supposed to be a compromise with the other Kurdish parties before the September 25 independence referendum. The problem is the KDP is looking for concessions from others, not to give them before the vote, which is probably why it hasn’t followed through yet on the parliament.
In July and September 2017, the KDP held talks with other parties in the KRG about the regional parliament. On July 30, after a meeting of the KRG referendum committee that included President Massoud Barzani, Premier Nechirvan Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) Kosrat Rasul, it was agreed that the parliament would be back in session in two weeks. That didn’t happen. Then, on September 10 the PUK and KDP again agreed to return the assembly on September 14. That has now been pushed back to September 15. This has been a major demand of the Gorran (Change) party and the PUK. In August 2015, President Barzani’s term ended, but he refused to leave office. That set off a political dispute with Gorran. Barzani then closed the parliament in October, blocked the speaker of parliament, who was from Gorran from entering Irbil, and dismissed the Gorran ministers and replaced them with KDP members. This was all illegal, and set off a cold war between the two parties, which was already frigid to begin with. Gorran has called the referendum unconstitutional, demanding that it be legislated first, and then certified afterward. The KDP has brought up the parliament to try to win the support of Gorran for the election, but it has been stand offish. Its lack of trust in Barzani’s promises has been warranted so far as he has not followed through with either of his offers.
The problem is that the KDP is looking to gain concessions from other parties for the referendum, not the other way around. The KDP has already floated some possible ideas to both the Iraqi government and the other Kurdish parties. In August, a KRG delegation visited Baghdad and hinted that it might accept help with its budget and debt, and resolving the disputed territories. The next month, the KDP talked about a two-year extension of Barzani’s presidency and a delay in KRG parliamentary voting in return for postponing the referendum. Barzani has often brought up independence and other Kurdish nationalist issues when he is political trouble. It was no surprise then that he announced the referendum while he was having problems with Gorran and other parties within the KRG, and before provincial and parliamentary elections were due in Iraq. He is obviously looking to enhance his position with the vote both before and after it happens. He has brought up the KRG parliament to see what he can get, but since Gorran is skeptical, he hasn’t gotten anything in return. That means the legislature will continue be used as a bargaining chip even if and when it is re-instated.
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Chmaytelli, Maher, “Iraq’s Kurds might put off independence vote in return for concessions from Baghdad: official,” Reuters, 8/20/17
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Goran, Baxtiyar, “Reconvening of Kurdistan Parliament postponed to Friday,” Kurdistan 24, 9/13/17
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- “KDP, Gorran, PUK agree in principle to reactivate Kurdistan parliament,” 9/12/17
- “Kurdistan parliament to convene on Thursday after KDP-PUK deal,” 9/10/17