ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Efforts to resolve the Kurdistan Region’s political crisis and reactivate parliament in advance of an anticipated referendum on independence are stagnated. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is hopeful that parliament can sit in June in the absence of the parliament speaker, but most other parties are not on board with the KDP’s plan.
“There is good understating with respect to the question of reactivating the parliament. I therefore think the parliament will be reactivated in a month,” Jaafar Ibrahim, KDP politburo member and deputy speaker of Kurdistan’s parliament, told Rudaw in a recent interview.
According to information obtained by Rudaw, the KDP parliamentary bloc, in coordination with MPs from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and minority representatives, wants to hold a parliamentary session from June to September, on the basis of the legislature’s by-laws, in order to hold a referendum on independence.
The Change Movement (Gorran) and the PUK have both stated that a referendum can be called only by the parliament.
“The parliament has two sessions per year. The first session starts at the beginning of March and ends at the end of June. The second one commences at the beginning of September and ends at the end of December,” article 5 of the parliamentary by-laws states.
After the KDP prevented the speaker of Kurdistan’s parliament and Gorran party member, Dr. Yusif Mohammed, from entering Erbil on October 12, 2015, the KDP has several times hinted at annulling its political agreement with Gorran, which was ratified on April 17, 2014. This agreement entitled the Gorran party to hold the position of parliament speaker and four ministerial positions along with a body within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Article 16, section 2 of the parliament’s by-laws addresses the vacancy of the position of parliament speaker: “In the event the position of parliament speaker, his deputy or that of the parliament’s secretary, becomes vacant for any reason, the parliament will elect replacements to them in its first session after these or one of these positions had become vacant, according to the text of these by-laws.”
The ensuing steps are mentioned in section 1 of article 6 in the parliament by-laws: “The speaker of parliament or one fourth of its members has the right to call for an emergency session which will focus on the subjects mentioned in the call for the meeting.”
According to the parliament by-laws, a parliamentary emergency meeting requires the signatures of 28 MPs. According to the amended election law of 1992, however, holding a session to discuss a specific subject requires signatures of one third of MPs. In the case of the current parliament, it would require signatures of 37 MPs. In the presence of this law, the parliament will not depend on its by-laws.
The KDP can call for this session on its own as it has 38 MPs.
“The parliament has two options: either holding elections on time, or extending its legal term. In addition to the question of reactivating the parliament, there is also the question of the fourth parliamentary term nearing its end,” Shwan Ahmed, KDP MP and member of the parliament’s law committee, said.
“If the parliament cannot be reactivated through reaching an agreement on the question, the oldest MP can chair the session, according to the law. And this is because the parliament’s presidential body [speaker] hasn’t been able to discharge his duties. However, the KDP wants to settle this question through dialogue. Otherwise, the best solution is holding snap elections or holding elections on time. And we as a party have made preparations for this,” Ahmed added.
According to article 10 of the parliament by-laws, the first parliamentary session will be chaired by the oldest MP. This is in favor of the KDP, as the oldest MP of this term is KDP member Mohammed Sadiq.
Gorran: This way of reopening parliament will further deepen the crises
A Gorran party MP has said that reactivating the parliament this way will further complicate the problems of the Kurdistan Region.
“The parliament’s chairing staff is not on leave or absent. Rather, the speaker of parliament was barred from going back to his place to execute his duties. Hence, any attempt to hold an emergency session in the absence of parliament’s chairing body will further deepen the political crisis,” Bahar Mahmud, an MP with the Gorran party, told Rudaw.
Bahar Mahmud is also deputy head of the parliament’s law committee.
“Calling for an emergency session is a legitimate request if it is made by one third of the MPs, providing that the request is made by the chairing body. And the chairing body is not dead yet,” Mahmud said, adding that there is no need to resort to the oldest member chairing the session.
After the oldest person is called upon to chair the session, according to article 22 of the parliament by-laws, the provisional speaker, after being sworn in, will call for candidates for the position of parliament speaker, his deputy, and parliament secretary. This way, the parliament will be reactivated, a source from the KDP faction told Rudaw.
An obstacle for holding this session is a potential lack of MPs attending the session. According to article 4 of the amended parliament by-laws, a parliamentary session is illegal if the majority of the MPs are absent. In order for the session to be able to go ahead in the absence of the parliament’s current chairing body, 56 MPs should attend the session.
The PUK does not see the KDP’s plan as a potential resolution to the problem.
“I predict the situation will remain the same. It is unlikely the parties will be prepared to make concessions for the sake of reaching a national agreement. Resorting to the practice of majority or minority of MPs to reactivate the parliament will create more divisions, and will not help resolve the crises,” Salar Mahmud, an MP with the PUK, said.
The Islamic Union’s position is that parliament cannot sit in the absence of its current speaker.
“The session cannot be held in the absence of current chairing body. And this is because the chairing body has not been removed in a vote. They are alive. Holding an emergency session is therefore unlikely,” Abu Bakr Haladni, head of the Islamic Union’s bloc in the Kurdistan Region’s parliament, said.
The deputy speaker of Kurdistan’s parliament has told some MPs that all possible ways have reached deadlock. That is why holding elections in November this year is a strong possibility, Haladni added.