Kurdistan Parliament. Photo: Rudaw.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Political parties in the Kurdistan Region were at odds Wednesday over parliament meeting to discuss an extension to Masoud Barzani’s term in office, as the president’s own party urged the others to agree on the issue before taking it to parliament.
With Barzani’s presidency set to expire on Friday, and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) asking for an extension that would be his second since 2013, the issue widely polarized political parties.
In the latest move on Wednesday, MPs from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) called to postpone the day’s parliament session for Sunday, urging parties to wait until the outcome of a meeting among the five biggest parties on Wednesday.
Abu Bakir Haladani, head of the KIU bloc in parliament, told reporters he was waiting for a “positive outcome” from that meeting among the parties.
Political parties in Kurdistan held a large night-long meeting that lasted until dawn on Wednesday, and another meeting was expected later Wednesday among five of the main political parties.
Fuad Hussein, the presidential chief of staff, said that Tuesday’s meeting had ended “with a good result.” He did not elaborate.
Omed Khoshnaw, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) bloc in the Kurdistan parliament said in a press release that "we reiterate that the question of the Kurdistan region presidency should be resolved just through consensus."
"Nobody can impose his will on the people of Kurdistan," said Khoshnaw. "We call on all parliament factions to turn a new page in the political life of the region."
Frsat Sofi, another KDP MP, also told Rudaw: “We call on those parties that want to take part in today's (parliament) session to consider the value of the midnight's consensus among the political parties and understand how happy the people of the Kurdistan region have been since then. Let’s wait and see what will happen today."
Nawshirwan Mustafa, the head of the Change Movement (Gorran), which has not announced its opposition to an extension to Barzani’s term yet , did not attend the overnight meeting, but sources said he participated by telephone.
Meanwhile, Birzo Majid, head of the Change Movement (Gorran) bloc in the Kurdistan parliament also told Rudaw that "political parties should know that 24 hours left from the term of Barzani's post. However, we think the parties’ meeting is important. What they are doing is a political move towards a solution. But remember, we are legally working in the parliament, and the law is above us all."
A Rudaw reporter on the scene said that parties opposed to an extension of the presidential term were frantically trying to reach the required quorum of 56 in parliament to rule on the issue.
"According to the article 16 of the parliament bylaw, the speaker has all the right to hold the session, unless we vote to cancel the session, the parliament speaker will not cancel it," said Goran Azad, an MP form the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which together with Gorran is part of Kurdistan’s coalition government.
“As long as there is believed to be a consensus between political parties out there, we can wait and see what will be the outcome of their meetings,” said Haji Karwan, from the KIU, which was siding with the KDP in saying there was no need for MPs to meet on Wednesday.
The US and UK representatives attended a meeting of 16 Kurdish political parties in Erbil on Tuesday to discuss the presidency issue.
US Deputy Special Envoy Brett H. McGurk said on Twitter account that he and British Ambassador to Iraq Frank Baker had attended the meeting.
On Monday, US State Department Spokesperson John Kirby told journalists, the presidency issue is “an internal political matter, and this is a decision for the people and parties of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region to make together."
The issue of the presidency has polarized the Kurdish enclave’s politics and people. Those favoring Barzani staying on – who has been president since 2005 and whose term was extended for two years in 2013 – argue that, with Kurdistan at war with the Islamic State group (ISIS) fore more than a year, it is a poor time to hold elections.
Earlier this week, Barzani gave political parties a Thursday deadline to reach agreement on the issue.