This file photo shows Kurdistan parliament speaker Yousif Mohammed addresses a conference in Erbil in August 2015. Photo: Rudaw/Farzin Hassan
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Yousif Mohammed said next month’s independence referendum will lack “legitimacy” if it goes ahead without an act from the currently suspended parliament.
Mohammed made the remarks during a meeting with civil society members in Sulaimani where he has been practicing some of his powers as parliamentary speaker since the legislature was suspended by the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in October 2015.
“The referendum is an important and crucial issue,” Mohammed said, according to a statement from his office. “Without a discussion inside the parliament hall, the referendum will not have legitimacy from a legal point of view.”
He said the issue of the referendum and eventually declaring an independent state of Kurdistan is a “national matter” that should bring all parties together instead of causing “disagreement and feuding” between them.
Mohammed is a member of the Change or Gorran Movement, the second-largest party in the parliament with 24 seats, following the KDP’s 38 seats.
The High Referendum Council that is led by President Masoud Barzani and includes all parties of Kurdistan except for Gorran and the Islamic Group (Komal), decided late last month that the parliament should be reactivated within two weeks, but that never came to pass. Gorran and the KDP are in talks to work out their differences before heading to the parliament.
Gorran released a five-point statement about two weeks ago that mainly called for the parliament to be activated and the referendum postponed until the time is right.
KDP and Gorran most recently met on Monday to discuss issues between them including the referendum, but there are no signs they made any progress.
Barzani has said that debating the date of the referendum is out of the question. He has remained in power despite the expiration of his term in office two years ago – the main cause of the rift between his KDP and Gorran.
Meanwhile, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the third largest party in Kurdistan, is expected to meet with Gorran to push one last time for a negotiated end to the political stalemate.
The PUK has an alliance with both KDP and Gorran and is a leading party behind the referendum. It said in a statement on Wednesday that it “is insistent on the reactivation of Kurdistan’s parliament before the referendum is held.”
Gorran and Komal have so far refused to attend meetings related to the referendum. The two parties have said that the Kurdistan parliament has to first be reactivated and then pass a law to call the referendum.
Hoshyar Zebari, a senior KDP member, told Rudaw in June that the legitimacy of the Kurdistan referendum is “more valid” if the Kurdistan parliament is active and functioning, but added that they have asked “many legal and international law experts” and all have come to the conclusion that “this is an executive and administrative decision and therefore does not need a law on this matter.”
In October 2015, security forces in Erbil, who are largely under the control of the KDP, blocked the speaker from returning to the capital.
The KDP also sacked Gorran ministers from the broad-based Kurdistan Regional Government, including the ministers of finance and Peshmerga.