ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – “The parliament presidency team and the Gorran ministers will return to their work in the near future,” the leader of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Salahaddin Bahadin has told Rudaw on Tuesday, also confirmed by other senior Kurdish officials.
The decision comes as the Kurdistan Region announced last week to hold referendum on independence in September with many parties believing that the Kurdish legislature should pass a law to call for the referendum.
The parliamentary presidency includes speaker Yousif Mohammed, a Change Movement (Gorran) member, his deputy Jaafar Imniki from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the parliament secretary Fakhradin Qadir from the Islamic League (Komal).
The decision to reactivate the parliament that has not convened since October 2015 was made in a high-level meeting between the two main ruling parties, the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Saadi Ahmad Pira, a senior PUK official who attended the meeting today, told Rudaw that according to an agreed joint mechanism between the KDP and PUK parliament, Speaker Mohammed will preside the first parliament session to be held “at the earliest time” and then the parliament should elect a new parliament presidency in the second session after the current presidency offer their resignation.
Mohammed is not allowed to run for the speaker of the parliament when a new parliament team is elected, Rudaw has learned from its sources, a condition set by the KDP.
“The parliament speaker will again come from the Gorran Movement,” Pira said as he insisted that the Gorran will retain the post.
Pira said the move has come after the Wednesday meeting in which the Kurdish government and the majority of political parties except for Gorran and Komal decided to set a date for the referendum this fall, and reactivate the parliament so that it helps to “successfully conduct the referendum.”
The PUK also confirmed in a statement published after the meeting that the parliament will be reopened.
“Gorran ministers will all return to their work,” Pira said as he explained the details about their project agreed between the two parties after hours-long meeting.
Gorran has a number of ministries in the Kurdish government, including that of the Peshmerga and Finances, all sacked in October 2015 by the KDP-led government.
Pira said both the PUK and KDP had communicated with Gorran regarding the meeting today.
A source from Gorran told Rudaw that they have officially been informed about the new mechanism by the KDP-PUK to reactivate the parliament and they will hold a meeting tomorrow to study it.
Meanwhile, another official from Gorran has told Rudaw that the three presidencies of the Kurdistan Region all have to be changed at the same time, making reference to the positions of the presidency of the Kurdistan Region, the prime ministry and the presidency of the parliament.
“Yousif Mohammed does not have any legal issues,” Abdulrazaq Sharif, the head of the Gorran media said, “if the message from the Kurdistan Region president is to be fully implemented as it is, and the three presidencies all together [are] to be changed by the parliament, in that case we do not have any issue with it,” he continued as he talked about an earlier call by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani in November 2016 aimed at ending the political deadlock.
Then, Barzani in an official statement said: “The solution to the political crisis of the region is that the [political] parties begin discussions and elect a new speaker for the parliament. The parties should also reach agreement on establishing a new government and appoint somebody for the region’s presidency until elections take place."
The KDP Leadership Council released a statement on Sunday, following a high-level meeting attended by the party’s leader Masoud Barzani and his deputy Nechirvan Barzani who are also the President and Prime Minister of the Kurdish government, respectively.
It tied the issue of the now-paralyzed parliament to the referendum in the fall.
“The issue of reactivating the parliament: The issue was discussed and it was emphasized that it should be in a way that helps [in] resolving the problems and further bringing together [all sides] and to create unity of the Kurdistani home. Also to help the process of referendum as a significant and national and patriotic issue,” it reads.
The KDP's call for the reactivation of the Kurdistan parliament came in light of the scheduled Kurdistan referendum on September 25.
The Kurdish legislature, which was virtually shut down since October 2015 by the KDP-led Kurdish government, has been a major contributing factor to the political deadlock between the five major political parties, particularly between the KDP and Gorran, which is the second-largest party with 24 seats.
The issue reemerged when the Kurdish government earlier this year revealed plans to hold the referendum, with almost all major parties except the KDP calling for a mandate from the parliament to approve the referendum.
Due to major differences over the issue of President Barzani’s term in office and strained tensions mainly between the KDP and Gorran, the Kurdish legislature was closed in October 2015, when security forces in Erbil, largely under the control of the KDP blocked Speaker Mohammed from returning to the capital where the parliament is located.
Gorran has set a precondition of a functioning parliament before it gives its blessing for the referendum.
Hoshyar Zebari, who is a KDP member of its Leadership Council, told Rudaw following his party’s meeting on Sunday that the legitimacy of the Kurdistan referendum to be held in September is “more valid” if the Kurdistan parliament is to be active and functioning
He however maintained that the referendum does not need an act from the parliament.
“Holding referendum does not need any law,” Zebari said, adding that they have asked “many legal and international law experts” and that they all have come to the conclusion that “this is an executive and administrative decision and therefore does not need a law on this matter.
“But despite that, according to the views of many of the experts, and ourselves, too, it will be better, and stronger for the issue of the referendum and its results if our institutions are to be active and functioning, that the legitimacy [of the referendum] will probably be more valid before the eyes of the world, though we turn to the will of the people that is above it.”