File photo: Parliament speaker Yousif Mohammed, a Gorran member [L], and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, a KDP member, attend a press conference in 2014. The Kurdish parliament has not convened since October 2015 because of tensions between the two parties. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The two main ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region have agreed to reactivate the suspended Kurdish parliament on September 14 following a high level meeting in Erbil on Sunday, a source with knowledge of the meeting told Rudaw. It is about two weeks before the Kurdish independence referendum.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, held a meeting with a senior delegation from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headed by Mala Bakhtiyar, and also attended by Deputy PM Qubad Talabani.
The meeting was in preparation for another meeting on Monday between the two parties during which they are going to sign a new agreement.
The two also agreed to hold one final meeting with Gorran and the Islamic Group (Komal) in order to convince them to agree to the reactivation of the parliament, the source said.
With today’s agreement, both the PUK and the KDP will push for a reactivated parliament in a joint effort without the support of Gorran and Komal if they refuse to join in.
It is a scenario that the PUK had tried to avoid because of concerns such a move may cost them votes in the general elections set for November. PUK voters are naturally more aligned with Gorran rather than the KDP.
Hemin Hawrami, a KDP member and also a senior assistant to the Kurdish President, had said Saturday that the parliament should convene no later than September 15.
Almost all Kurdish parties are increasingly of the view that the parliament is the right institution to pass a law that calls for the independence referendum set for September 25, just over two weeks from now.
The meeting comes as the PUK held talks with Gorran and Komal this week, two parties that have so far refused to agree to the terms of a joint KDP-PUK proposal to reopen the parliament about two years after it was shut down because of tensions between the KDP and Gorran, the first and second largest parties in the Kurdistan Region.
Kakamin Najar, a KDP official, told Rudaw Saturday that the meetings between his party and the PUK were to discuss “the issue of referendum and the reactivation of parliament,” in light of the PUK’s recent efforts.
Officials from both Gorran and Komal have described their meetings with the PUK as good and constructive, but remained mindful that they need guarantees from the KDP that the parliament will get back to business as usual after its reactivation with no red lines set.
Rudaw has learned that Gorran submitted three demands to the PUK when they met on Friday. They include a call for a trilateral meeting between the PUK, KDP, and Gorran to obtain guarantees from the KDP that their demands will be met and for the parliament to amend the presidency law.
Gulastan Saeed, from Gorran, told reporters after the Friday meeting that they asked for a meeting between the five main Kurdish parties, KDP, PUK, and Gorran plus Komal and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU). The five parties are officially members of the Kurdish coalition government headed by the KDP.
The issue of the presidential law concerns the fate of President Barzani’s term in office that expired in 2015 but was then extended by a controversial court ruling after the parliament was not able to reach an agreement. It also caused the rift between the KDP and Gorran that eventually resulted in closing down the parliament by the KDP that year.
Kardo Mohammed, a Gorran official and former MP, told Rudaw Saturday that the process of Kurdish politics would not go ahead “in a normal manner” if the two main parties decided to sideline Gorran.
Mohammed however added that the PUK efforts had proved to be practical and acceptable to Gorran, if followed by actions.
He said the PUK presented a “good agenda [to Gorran], but it needs a political and legal framework.”
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.