Begard Talabani, leader of the PUK's parliamentary faction in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Begard Talabani FB
Begard Talabani is the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) faction in the Kurdistan Region's parliament. Talabani spoke with Rudaw on Sunday about the positions of the political parties, amid intense discussions between all major parties in the Kurdistan Region to re-activate parliament ahead of the September 25 independence referendum. She is also a member of the party’s leadership.
PUK and Gorran came together to form a strategic alliance in May 2016. Talabani believes Gorran has changed its position after KDP agreed earlier this summer to drop all pre-conditions for the re-activation of parliament. The faction head highlights that Gorran is seeking an agreement outside of the parliament. Talabani says her party is of the view that the presidential law, public salaries, and Kurds' livelihoods are issues that need to be addressed within parliament.
Rudaw: What was the outcome of the meeting that the PUK held with the Change Movement (Gorran) and the Islamic Group (Komal)?
Begard Talabani: One of the PUK’s main demands over the past two years has been an unconditional reactivation of the parliament. The PUK’s roadmap sheds light on this question clearly. And you know that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) dropped its conditions and removed the obstacles for the reactivation of the parliament.
The leadership should have a clear vision in the event the parliament is reactivated. There are some important projects and legislation that the PUK faction should work on, most importantly the issue of peoples’ livelihood. The PUK leadership had seven demands. We have openly told Gorran and Komal that we will be reactivating the parliament if the KDP fulfills our demands.
What was Gorran concerned about in responding to the PUK’s project?
They thought the PUK’s project was good. The position of Gorran has now changed. They want to reach a political agreement outside the parliament and then reactivate the parliament. The Gorran delegation told us that they want an agreement among the five or three parties prior to the reactivation of the parliament in order to ensure what was done to the parliament in the past does not recur.
Why have they shifted their position?
They said that situations have changed, and that closing down the doors of the parliament in this way has posed a danger that this could happen again.
A decision was made in the meeting held on Sunday between the PUK and KDP politburos that the parliament will be reactivated by September 14. Have you asked Gorran and Komal for their final stance on this question?
Our and Gorran’s positions on the mechanisms necessary to go about implementing the seven points are different. The PUK leadership has tasked us to work on approving the principles and points approved in the last meeting within the parliament through agreements with other parties. But they demand that an agreement be reached outside the parliament and then the parliament should fulfill its duties. We hope that the parliament is reactivated with both Gorran and Komal participating in the process and with the parliament’s current speaker remaining as speaker in the coming days. And this is because reactivating the parliament needs collective work.
In your meetings with Gorran and Komal, did you notice any difference in their demands and positions on the reactivation of the parliament?
I didn’t notice a big difference. Komal thought that the PUK’s points were good. I felt that Komal wanted to return to the parliament.
Will you along with the KDP call for the parliament to convene?
No, we will not be calling for this alone. Rather, all the factions will be calling upon the parliament to sit so that the parliament can start its meetings [again] rather than meeting only once to pass a law on the referendum. The parliament should fulfill its monitoring role, pass or amend important bills, most importantly working on the salary system, which is very important to us.
Will you accept to have the position of deputy speaker of the parliament?
We haven’t discussed this question yet, but we will commit to whatever decisions made by our politburo.
There is a lot of talk about the salary system. Why would the government wait for the reactivation of the parliament if it has enough income to pay these salaries?
I want to speak about this issue without making any overstatements. We will be speaking with experts and the deputy prime minister on the question of changes in the income (which the Kurdistan Region is making). The salary system should be reviewed. We will therefore be trying to arrange a meeting between the government and the parliament to address the salary system after the parliament is reactivated because the government income and oil prices have changed.
The PUK is often criticized for pulling back on the question of amending the Kurdistan Region’s presidential law. Why is that?
We haven’t pulled back from amending the Kurdistan Region’s presidential law. But we think it is important to settle this question through an agreement among the factions of the parliament. As you know, we couldn’t complete the quorum for the parliamentary meeting held to amend the Kurdistan Region’s presidential law. We should therefore reach an agreement to resolve this matter.
You were often named for the meeting held on August 19 in which you had reportedly pressured the speaker of the parliament. Can you explain this?
Naming us is very unfair because we didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t regret the meeting held on August 19. The parliament was not shut down because of that meeting. The question of amending the Kurdistan Region’s presidential law was taken outside the parliament after the meeting held on August 19. The parliament was shut down because the meetings among the five parties ended in stalemate. It appears that some people are regretful and are coming up with excuse for their stance. That is why they are pointing fingers at us. It is not true that I threatened the speaker of the parliament. Some unaware MPs are just putting out words for matters of overstatement.
Has the PUK completely entered the referendum process?
The leadership council overwhelmingly approved the referendum, which is for the independence of Kurdistan. Our roadmap refers to it. In addition to this, the PUK has been the first party to pursue the right of self-determination. That is why holding the referendum and making it a success is our duty and that of all the PUK members.