Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is no closer to resolving the controversy over the expired term of regional President Massoud Barzani. Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and his opponents, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Gorran/Change List cannot agree on how to move forward. Barzani has called for an election to determine his fate if the parties cannot agree. He may mean the next Kurdish elections in 2017 rather than any time soon.
In September 2015, President Barzani said that if the Kurdish parties can’t come to an agreement about his presidency then the people should decide the matter. Barzani’s term expired on August 20, but he has remained in office. According to the law, speaker of the Kurdish parliament Youisf Mohammed Sadiq was supposed to become president on an interim basis, but Barzani has ignored him. The KDP pointed to a ruling by the Shura Council that Barzani can stay in office for two more years until the next round of elections. That might be what the president is talking about when he calls for a vote. The newly formed Kurdish Election Commission said that it is the only organization that has a right to call for new elections, but that it would take up to six months to prepare for them. The commission attempted to meet with Barzani and KRG Premier Nechirvan Barzani in late May 2015 to discuss the on going crisis, but they were turned down. Given that situation 2017 may be the next time Barzani faces a vote.
The reason for the controversy is that the ruling Kurdish parties cannot agree on what to do about the president. The KDP wants another political deal between the lists like the one that extended Barzani’s term back in 2013. Barzani’s opponents, the PUK and Change List want to amend the presidency law to limit the powers of the office and change to a parliamentary system. Neither side has the votes in the Kurdish parliament to move forward, which has led to the current deadlock. That favors Barzani who can blame the other parties for not forming a consensus. In the meantime he can stay in office until 2017. If no new laws are passed on the matter, and there is no indication that any will be, he can win another term. The KDP has said as much back in August when it announced no one would replace Barzani as KRG president as long as he was alive.
eKurd, “Barzani says if parties fail to reach deal, let the people choose Kurdistan president,” 9/6/15
- “Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief – August 10, 2015,” 8/10/15
- “Iraqi Kurdistan’s IHEC says it is not ready for August 20 presidential election,” 6/20/15
Kurd Press, “Barzani has lost legitimacy: parliament speaker,” 8/29/15
Osgood, Patrick and Tahir, Rawaz, “Barzani term limit disputes roil Kurdistan politics,” Iraq Oil Report, 6/20/15