Thursday, October 1, 2009

Referendum On Kurdish Constitution Moves Forward

As reported before, on July 10, 2009 the Kurdistan regional parliament postponed a referendum on a new draft constitution. Now, on September 23 the Iraqi Election Commission said that it was ready to hold the vote. It still needs a referendum law and a budget to carry out the process. Originally, the election on the constitution was to happen at the same time as the Kurdish parliamentary and presidential balloting on July 25. According to reports, Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates who traveled to Iraq in July 2009 led to the delay.

The document has been controversial for a number of reasons. For one, it lays claim to Kirkuk and other disputed areas. Second, it gives the regional president greatly expanded powers including executive authority, control over the peshmerga, the ability to pass and veto laws, dissolve parliament, and remove ministers. (5) It also says that the Kurdistan Regional Government has the authority to veto any international treaties signed by Baghdad that impact the region. The new Kurdish opposition group the Change List has said they oppose the constitution as well, and want it revised. However Regional President Massoud Barzani said that it would require a two-thirds vote in the Kurdish parliament to amend it, which the Change List does not possess. If the regional constitution is passed as is, it could increase tensions with the central government in Baghdad, as well as cause dissension within Kurdistan.

SOURCES

Aziz, Ardalan, “controversy over kurdish constitution,” Niqash, 7/6/09

Dagher, Sam, “New Kurdish Leader Asserts Agenda,” New York Times, 7/29/09

Mahmoud, Amer, “controversy over Kurdish constitution,” Niqash, 7/6/09

PUK Media, “IHEC Source: Ready to hold referendum on Kurdistan Region Constitution,” 9/23/09

Sands, Phil and Latif, Nazir, “Talk of war as Kurdish tension increase,” The National, 8/1/09

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