Gorran spokesman Shorsh Haji reads a statement in Sulaimani on June 10, 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The Change Movement (Gorran) has stated that it believes in the formation of an independent state of Kurdistan but that holding the referendum currently set by some Kurdish parties and the Kurdish government for September is “illegal.”
The party’s national council held its first meeting in Sulaimani after the death of its influential leader Nawshirwan Mustafa on May 19 following a long battle with illness.
Gorran or Change has said that they are continuing the path of the late leader who since his early youth until his death struggled in “bringing about the base and principles of founding and declaring the independent state of Kurdistan,” Shorsh Haji, Goran's spokesperson said as he read a written statement, adding that such Mustafa envisioned a reformed Kurdistan.
The party refused to attend a meeting on Wednesday held by the Kurdish President Masoud Barzani to discuss the issue of the independence referendum. Gorran has set the precondition of reactivating the Kurdish parliament so the legislature can pass a law in this regard.
The parliament has not convened since October 2015 after tensions were heightened between Gorran and President Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
“The issue of referendum should be the last phase of a comprehensive plan before the declaration of the independent state of Kurdistan,” Haji continued, “but the process, that the Kurdistan Democratic Party and those who play along [with] its tune has begun, is a party-based and illegal process.”
President Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and Deputy PM Qubad Talabani convened a meeting in Erbil last week with some political parties, including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with whom Gorran has had an alliance agreement with since last year, and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), who shared with Gorran a parliamentary opposition to the ruling KDP-PUK government from 2009 until 2013.
During the meeting September 25 was chosen as a day for the Kurdistan Region and its outlying territories to hold referendum on whether to stay with Iraq or form an independent Kurdish state.
The Gorran statement is as much directed against the PUK and the KIU as it is against the KDP. It would have wanted the two parties to also set a precondition for a reactivated parliament prior to any dates being set for the referendum.
Gorran, the second-largest party with 24 seats in the Kurdish parliament, and the Islamic League (Komal) with six seats, both members of the coalition government headed by the KDP, boycotted the meeting.
The parliament speaker Yousif Mohammed, a Gorran member, has been barred from returning to the parliament headquarters in Erbil since October 2015 after tensions rose between Gorran and the KDP.
Relations between the KDP and Gorran deteriorated in October 2015 when the KDP sacked Gorran ministers and its speaker of parliament Yousif Mohammed who took office after a deal with the KDP following the inconclusive elections in 2013, after days of demonstrations that resulted in the death of several KDP members.
The KDP accused Gorran of orchestrating the riots. Gorran denied the accusations.
The KDP also sacked the Gorran ministers, including the Peshmerga and the Finances, in October that year.
“Neither this issue, nor any other factor should be used as justification to postpone or cancel conducting the general elections on time,” Gorran's statement added.
Last week, President Barzani officially directed the Region’s election body to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections “on time,” expected to be held on November 6, following the referendum.
Commenting on a recent contract signed between Erbil and the Russian giant oil firm Rosneft, the party said that the issue of referendum should not be used to pass this and other “non-transparent” contracts made in the oil sector that it claimed has left the Region with a “big debt.”
The debt, the statement said, has driven the lives of people to a “dangerous level.”
Gorran also said that it is their priority to improve the living conditions of the people of Kurdistan in light of the ongoing financial crisis caused primarily by a drop in oil prices for the oil-dependent Region, the budget cut by the central government in Baghdad since early 2014, and the war against the ISIS group and the subsequent influx of refugees who sought refuge in the relative safety of the Kurdish Region.