SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region, has voiced their "conditional" support for the forthcoming independence referendum to be held on September 25. The decision came after two lengthy meetings held on Thursday and Sunday.
A statement from the party's Leadership Council stated that they are in favor of the referendum for independence on the condition that the now-paralyzed Kurdistan Parliament would pass a law to approve the historic vote. In practice, this means the Kurdistan parliament must be reactivated before the referendum takes place.
"Since its foundation until now, the slogan of right to self-determination has been the core of the PUK's struggle. From this perspective, the Leadership Council reaffirms that just as it was the pioneer of the democratic struggle for the right to self-determination, without any doubt it will be its guarantor and will struggle for the success of the referendum for independence in the Kurdistan Region and all the Kurdistani areas that are cut from the Region, on the condition that all the procedures be approved by a law passed by the Kurdistan parliament," read the PUK's statement, as published by their media.
Gorran (Change Movement), the second-largest party in Kurdistan, has an alliance agreement with the PUK signed in May last year that remains largely unimplemented. It and the Islamic League (Komal), refused to attend a June 7 meeting that set the date for the referendum and have so far declined to give their blessing to the referendum without first reactivating the Kurdish parliament that has not convened since October 2015.
Gorran has 24 seats in the parliament while Komal has six.
The PUK is caught between a rock and a hard place as it also has an agreement with the KDP, signed in 2007.
The PUK's statement read that they are committed to their agreement with Gorran and will take steps to implement it.
Earlier in the day, Gali Kurdistan, a PUK media outlet, reported that the party will also select a representative to sit on the referendum committee. This was not confirmed in the PUK’s statement.
The referendum committee will be headed by President Masoud Barzani and is to include members of all the parties that participated in the June 7 meeting where the date was set for the referendum.
Chief of staff to the Kurdish president Fuad Hussein told Rudaw over the weekend that all the parties that had attended the June 7 meeting had named their representatives to the referendum committee except for the PUK.
Senior KDP member Fazil Mirani said they hope Gorran will appoint its delegate to the committee that will be tasked with visiting neighboring and world countries to discuss the referendum.
Gorran, which holds the position of parliament speaker, has already refused a joint offer from the KDP and PUK to reactivate the parliament, insisting that it does not accept "conditional" terms attached to the initiative, Gorran spokesperson Shorish Haji said in a televised statement on Wednesday.
The decision to reactivate the parliament was made in a high-level meeting between the two main ruling parties, the KDP and the PUK, and remains the only initiative the KDP has on the issue, Mirani confirmed.
Their plan to reactive the parliament was for Gorran Speaker Yousif Mohammed to lead the first session to be followed by his resignation and that of his entire team in the second session.
The proposal came as many parties have said they believe the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence, scheduled for September 25, should be dealt with through the parliament, not at the political party level.