File photo of a rally in support of the Kurdish independence vote in Germany's Cologne in August 2017. Photo: Rudaw video
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish parties are racing against time as they continue to hold talks with the aim of reactivating the Kurdistan parliament ahead of the independence referendum in just over two weeks. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is leading the talks while the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has set a goal of parliament sitting by next Friday.
A PUK delegation held a meeting with leaders of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) in Sulaimani, a day after it held similar talks with Gorran
Begard Talabani, a member of the PUK delegation, told Rudaw that the Saturday meeting with Komal was "good" and they are optimistic it will yield results in the coming days.
Komal’s Salim Koyee told his party’s media that the project put forward by the PUK for discussion is “very similar” to their own – both parties agree that the parliament should be reactivated. He added that more discussion is needed to decide the mechanism they can do so, including providing “guarantees” that the parliament will not be closed again as was done in 2005.
The PUK will meet with the KDP on Sunday in an “important meeting,” tweeted Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to President Masoud Barzani and KDP leadership council member. He said parliament will be restarted “no later” than September 15.
The PUK is primarily on a mission to help reactivate the parliament so that it will pass a law to call for the referendum.
PUK’s politburo member Saadi Pira met with the Komal leader Ali Bapir Friday “unofficially” in order to prepare for Saturday’s meeting.
Pira said their task is to reach a “consensus” among the various parties in Kurdistan.
Gorran and Komal are not necessarily against the independence vote, but say they want the Kurdish parliament to call for the vote rather than political parties.
Gulstan Saeed, a senior Gorran member, told reporters Friday following their meeting with PUK that the two parties found commonality on many issues. She said however that the PUK did not agree with their view that the vote should be postponed, as Gorran demanded last month, until the time and conditions are right.
Gorran and the PUK are the second and third biggest parties in the Kurdistan Region. The PUK however maintains great influence in Kurdish politics mainly because it has control over the Kurdish Peshmerga and security forces in Sulaimani and Halabja, two of the four provinces in the Kurdistan Region.
The PUK has alliance agreements with both Gorran and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and has been trying to mediate an agreement between them so that parliament can be reopened.
The KDP holds the most seats in the parliament, plus the positions of the prime ministry and the Region’s presidency.
The KDP-controlled government shut down the Kurdish legislative body following tensions between the party and Gorran, mainly over the term of presidency.
President Masoud Barzani’s term in office expired in August 2015, but was extended by a controversial court ruling. Gorran strongly opposed the extension and called for the law to be amended.
Gorran and Komal have refused to attend any meetings related to the referendum, including a multi-party meeting in June that set the September 25 referendum date.
The PUK has said that their renewed efforts would be the last before they make a final decision. One option they have is to reactivate the parliament with some of the parties while sidelining both Gorran and Komal. It is a scenario that the PUK wants to avoid because of concerns such a move may cost them votes in the general elections set for November.
The PUK and Gorran share almost the same voter-base, mainly in Sulaimani and Halabja provinces.
Gorran, a PUK offshoot, pushed the parent party into third place for the first time in 2013 when the PUK was seen aligning with KDP policies such as extending the term of President Barzani. Gorran won 24 seats and the PUK only 18.
The Kurdistan Region has already begun preparations to hold the referendum later this month. It will include the entire Kurdistan Region and the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both the Kurdish government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
Last updated 6:06pm