Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani (R) and Gorran leader Nawshirwan Mustafa (L). Photo: Courtesy of KRG/file photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—A senior party official with the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) told Rudaw on Sunday that “a major breakthrough” has “positively” pushed forward the ongoing talks over a political gridlock that has virtually paralyzed the regional parliament and undermined the government since November last year.
Ghazi Saaid, a politburo member of the KIU, said both the ruling and opposition parties “had reconciliatory tones” and were ready to meet each other half way.
Relations between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the opposition Change Movement (Gorran) declined in 2015 after rioters set fire to KDP offices and killed two of its local party members in Sulaimani province in November.
The KDP accused Gorran of orchestrating the riots and sacked its three ministers from the KDP-led cabinet in addition to expelling the speaker of the parliament, a Gorran member who took office after a deal with the KDP following the inconclusive elections in 2013.
The regional parliament in Erbil has not convened since November last year with Gorran demanding ousted speaker, Youssef Muhammad, be returned to his post.
In an earlier dispute, on June 23, 2015, all 38 members of the KDP’s parliamentary block left an extraordinary session in protest against a decree that they said would profoundly limit the president’s powers and his mandate, currently held by KDP leader Masoud Barzani.
The KDP also said the decree would shift the election process of the president from popular vote to parliament consensus, which they say is against earlier agreements and unacceptable.
The KDP, however, desperately needs the parliament’s approval of an anticipated referendum for independence, which could only be binding if the regional assembly endorsed it. It has asked other parties to reopen the parliament but without ousted speaker Muhammad, who the KDP accuses of “bias and antagonism.”
The ongoing negotiations between the parties are seeking to resolve these issues.
“Gorran leader Nawshirwan Mustafa has said that he will agree to replacing Youssef Muhammad and [will support] the referendum and other KDP demands, but what will Barzani do in return?” Saaid said.
Saaid also said that the KIU leader Salahaddin Bahauddin would soon meet the Kurdish president to hear his response to the Gorran offer.
Barzani said last Thursday he would not stand in the next presidential elections, tentatively set for July 2017, as his extended term in office will expire.
Gorran however is likely to also ask the KDP for revision of a draft constitution, which it says will give the regional president “unrestricted powers” and which the KDP wants to put to referendum later this year, along with the question of independence from Iraq.