ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Following the return of the Gorran leader Nawshirwan Mustafa to the Kurdistan Region from the UK on Saturday, a direct meeting between Mustafa and President Masoud Barzani will have “positive impact” on the challenges that face the Kurdistan Region, an influential Gorran member of the Kurdish parliament said in an interview with Rudaw.
Mustafa returned from the UK on Saturday morning, arriving at Sulaimani International Airport after spending months in the UK seeking medical treatment.
Omar Haji Inayat, a Gorran MP, said that he had hoped that Mustafa would return through Erbil airport and be received by President Barzani. He said such a scenario would have been able to help resolve the outstanding issues between Barzani’s Kurdistan democratic Party (KDP) and the Gorran party.
Even though that encounter did not happen, which he said the KDP should have made it happen, both leaders still have a chance to meet in Kurdistan.
Discussing the party’s disagreement with other main Kurdish parties, and the prospect of reactivating the Kurdistan parliament, Inayat said that expectations shouldn’t be high as the current political and economic problems in Kurdistan “are not made by Nawshirwan Mustafa” so that he can solve them.
He added though that in the Middle East “charisma” plays a role, a characteristic he said the Gorran leader has which could contribute to solving the political deadlock, especially between Gorran, and the rival 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 tensions between the two parties had also remained strained when the speaker refused to cancel a parliamentary session in 2015 planned to discuss President Masoud Barzani's second-term in office which was due to expire on August 19 that year.
He said that after the death of Mustafa’s partner, Shu’la Ali Saeed last March, whose funeral Mustafa could not attend in Sulaimani, President Barzani can seize the opportunity to visit the Gorran leader and meet in person.
Inayat continued to say that considering the changes that are taking place in the region, in light of the war against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, the Kurdish region has to prepare for what comes after, including “a change in geography” of the Middle East.
“If Mr Masoud Barzani and Mr Nawshirwan Mustafa do not come to an agreement and [decided] not to work together, they may lose influence over the outcome of the equations,” he warned, adding that if the leaders lose the initiative to take matters to Kurdish hands “any regret expressed afterwards yields no results.”
The ruling KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), two of the main Kurdish parties, have said that they will hold a much-discussed referendum for independence in 2017 asking for a public vote on whether or not to break away from Baghdad.
Gorran, which is the second-biggest party in Kurdistan in terms of seats in the parliament with 24 seats, along with the PUK, Islamic Union, and the Islamic Group (Komal) — all members of the Kurdish coalition government — say they are in favor of the referendum, but it must have a mandate from the parliament.
The KDP is of the view that approval from the Kurdish parliament is not needed to call the referendum. It has also set a precondition that the current speaker, whom the KDP accused of lacking impartiality, should be removed before the parliament to be reactivated.
The issue of reactivating the Kurdish legislative will be on top of the agenda if the leaders decided to meet face to face.
“I believe a direct meeting between Masoud Barzani and Nawshirwan Mustafa [where] they can discuss the problems of the Kurdistan Region will have a positive impact on the Kurdistan Region,” Inayat said.
He added that Mustafa does not have any reservation to meet with Barzani if the KDP leader still sticks to an earlier initiative he announced last November in which he urged political parties to get together to reactivate the parliament, appoint a new cabinet and elect another president until the next presidential elections.
The Gorran MP reiterated the fact that Mustafa calls for a parliamentary system in the Kurdistan Region, as opposed to the KDP’s proposal for a presidential system that gives far more powers to the president.
Commenting on the events in 2015 that led to the closure of the Kurdish legislative body, Inayat said that other main three parties in Kurdistan were on the same page with Gorran regarding a parliamentary system but that his party was betrayed halfway leaving Gorran “alone.”
“The majority from the PUK, the KIU, and Komal were all with us and presented a project with us,” he said, referring to the joint stance of these parties that called for a parliamentary system in Kurdistan with limited powers to the role of the Kurdish presidency.
“But unfortunately they left us half way into the road,” he said adding that he had warned Mustafa these parties will part their way with Gorran on this issue.
Regarding the outstanding issues between Gorran, also called Change Movement, and the PUK, in light of an agreement they signed last May, Inayat said that since Gorran does not have “money and [military] force”, the party could not help implement the points signed between the two sides as he claimed the majority of the PUK leaders, as opposed to their support base, oppose its implementation.
The polemical PUK-Gorran pact sent shockwaves in Kurdistan Region when it was announced in May last year whose implementation could have upset the political order in the country dominated by the powerful KDP and its strategic alliance with the PUK.
The deal would most notably allow PUK and Gorran to enter general elections on a joint ballot and consequently increase their chances to form the next Kurdish cabinet, which if implemented, would have diminished KDP’s dominance over government bodies since the 1990s.
Recent frictions between the two parties have only deepened over the past weeks as Gorran’s acting Governor in Sulaimani Sardar Qadir resigned from office in protest of what he called lack of cooperation, and PUK’s increasing partnership with the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to reopen the region’s parliament which has been closed since October 2015.