The PUK was instrumental, along the KDP, in deciding September 25 for the vote. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdish committee tasked with making preparations for Kurdistan Region’s September 25 referendum was meeting with President Masoud Barzani in Erbil today when one of the main subscribers to the initiative, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), refused to send its representative to the meeting unless the suspended parliament is reopened.
Mahmud Sangawi, a senior PUK official stated on Saturday that though they support the referendum, their support remains conditional to the reactivation of parliament.
Sangawi said that the party had decided earlier that they support the referendum, but that “before we enter the referendum committee, the parliament must be reactivated and that barriers should not be put in the way of the parliament.”
“The majority of the leadership convened yesterday and decided that anyone who attends the referendum committee without reactivating the parliament, he will represent himself and will not be the representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan,” Sangawi added.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been invited to be represented by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the KDP, and his deputy Qubad Talabani of the PUK, and Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim, also a PUK member.
Talabani and Karim attend the meeting in their capacity as government officials.
The PUK was instrumental, along the KDP, in deciding September 25 for the vote.
Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to President Barzani, twitted Saturday that today's meeting, first since its foundation, will discuss "practical steps" and preparations. A photo released by him shows Talabani and Karim sitting next to President Barzani.
The committee was formed on June 7 at a meeting between the majority of the parties in the Kurdistan Region chaired by President Barzani. Gorran Movement and the Islamic Group (Komal) have long refused to attend meetings related to the referendum.
The three parties boycotting the meeting today collectively have 48 seats in the Kurdish legislature.
The KDP with 38 seats, the Islamic Union of Kurdistan (KIU) with 10 seats, and a number of smaller parties as well as the minority parties who attend the meeting, collectively hold 63 seats.
The KDP has so far remained adamant that the referendum does not need the approval of the parliament.
Sangawi also touched upon the controversy regarding President Barzani’s term in office which ended in 2013 and has since been extended twice, first by an act in parliament, and then a Kurdish court. Some, including Gorran, consider the second extension as illegal and Barzani’s position illegitimate.
“I hope that his excellency Mr Masoud [Barzani] too thinks more carefully about this issue. I hope that he will give up his hard line," Sangawi said of President Barzani-KDP’s insistence that the parliament speaker from the Gorran party should resign from position as a condition to reopen the legislature.
"Though it is a fact that legally he is not the president of the Region, he is practicing [the powers] of the president of the Region,” Sangawi said about President Barzani.
All attempts to reactivate the parliament has so far failed, including a joint offer from the KDP and PUK on June 13, on the condition that the present chief of staff, including the parliament speaker, resign after the first session.
Komal and Gorran turned down the offer, saying that they do not accept any conditions attached to any initiatives aimed at reopening the parliament.
The Kurdish parliament has not convened since October 2015 when the speaker Yousif Mohammed, a Gorran party member, was barred from returning to the capital.
The KDP accused Gorran of orchestrating the violent protests in several towns of Sulaimani province that led to the death of KDP members and torching its offices. Gorran denied the accusations.