According to the regional constitution, the president can be elected either by the parliament or the people. Photo: krp.org
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Whether Massoud Barzani can legally run for a third four-year term as president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region remains a bone of contention between his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the opposition.
The KDP says it is looking into the legality of a third term, noting it may have a case because the 66-year-old Barzani was directly elected only once. He was first appointed in 2005 by Kurdish MPs, and re-elected by popular vote four years later.
"According to the KDP Barzani can run for another term, because he was elected as president through direct elections only once," said party spokesman Jaafar Ibrahim. “Nevertheless, we will consult legal experts and try to achieve unity with the other political parties,” he added.
Barzani has officially asked the Iraqi Higher Election Commission (IHEC) to hold the regional parliamentary and presidency elections no later than September 8 of this year.
Ibrahim said that Barzani had not yet decided whether he would run again. “Barzani will make his decision upon obtaining the legal answers," he said.
The main opposition Change Movement (Gorran), as well as the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), have rejected a third term for the president, who is the son of the revered Kurdish nationalist Mulla Mustafa Barzani and enjoys great popularity. He won 70 percent of the vote in the 2009 polls.
The opposition, led by Gorran, says another term would be “illegal.”
According to the regional constitution, the president can be elected either by the parliament or the people.
"It is not only KDP that wants Barzani to remain in office,” Ibrahim said. “Many of the other groups, including the opposition, have asked Barzani to remain," he claimed. “Barzani is not in love with the presidency, but it is a task given to him."
Opposition officials denied they had asked Barzani to remain in office.
Fareed Asassard, leadership member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which is the KDP’s smaller partner in the ruling Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said that in order for Barzani to remain in office, either existing laws must be amended, or a referendum must be held for a new constitution before the presidential polls.
“If this issue is not resolved in a wise manner, it will create a big political crisis in the Kurdistan Region," said Asassard.
Iraq’s estimated five million Kurds gained their own autonomous northern enclave following the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, and have turned it into the volatile country’s only stable and prosperous region.