Kurdish MPs boycott an Iraqi session of parliament on February 13, 2018, over the proposed budget bill. Photo: Rudaw TV
Kurdish MPs: This stance will continue, they need our votes
As pressure mounts on Iraq’s legislature to pass a 2018 budget bill, MPs from Kurdish parties believe that their voices need to be heard, not silenced as a minority faction in the parliament, so the boycott will continue.
"We have decided to not take part in sessions where discussions for the budget will take place. And we going to the session was just to prevent the reading as it started in absence of our will, so we wanted to prevent it," said Amin Bakir of Gorran during a joint press conference with fellow MPs from other Kurdish factions following the Tuesday’s boycott.
"They asked us to submit our demands in a formal way. Just some of us went inside to submit the demands and then we all walked out," he went on to add. "This stance will continue as we think for the voting on the budget, they will need our votes."
"If the prime minister was ready in any meeting to take our reservations, then we will take part in the voting, otherwise we will not vote," Bakir explained.
He said they will use all the means and methods in their hands to prevent the passing of the bill without Kurdish demands met.
He said they cannot make political decisions, this is something "vested in Kurdistan Region authorities."
Also in the press conference, Ahmed Haji Rashid, the decision-maker on the finance committee in the Iraqi parliament said the second version of the budget bill which has been returned to the parliament from the government "is illegal and unconstitutional."
"There is a possibility that we will file a legal lawsuit at the Federal Court," he said.
"We found it necessary to convey the desires of the people of Kurdistan to all the parliamentarians and Iraq's [public] opinion, so that they do not say why you did not present your reservations when the second reading to the bill took place," Rashid explained.
He said they have met with all the political parties and parliament blocs on the Shiite and Sunni sides.
"They are all aware of the demands of Kurds and I challenge anyone to deny the demands we have presented," Rashid added.
Kurdish MPs united in boycott
Faced with the choice of attending parliament that will lead to the passage of a 2018 budget that won’t suffice to cover the needs of the KRG, Kurdish MPs are united in standing by their boycott to prevent a quorum on Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, today again, as before, without it being on the agenda or a quorum in order for it to be voted on, the [parliament speaker] called on the finance committee to read their report," Shakhawan Abdullah, a KDP MP in parliament told Rudaw. "This is a violation to the parliament bylaw."
"We again prevented it and will continue to do so and will not let this subject pass in this way," Abdullah said.
He hailed the Badr Organizations bloc in the parliament after their leader had said the Kurdish MPs in the parliament represent a nation and their demands must not be neglected.
Abdullah said the head of the Badr bloc had said they do not see "any sign of goodwill" from the Iraqi government to fulfill the demands of the Kurds.
Badr organization is a part of the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi and led by Hadi al-Amiri. They split from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Nasr list in mid-January.
He said Jabouri asked for a quorum to be met in order to send the draft bill to the government again.
"But, if there are some people working for a quorum to be met and later pass the bill as it does not contain the desires of the Kurdish nation, we will no way accept and not allow this session to take place if our desires are not met," Abdullah insisted.
He explained that the only solution for the issues is to send the bill again to the government to make changes that Kurds ask for, because legally and constitutionally only the government has the authority to add, remove, or make changes to the bill.
Therefore, any sort of discussion in the parliament over the budget bill will bear no fruit.
"Even if we increase the Kurdish share from 17 to 20 in the parliament, the government will not commit to it and reject it," he said, saying legally and constitutionally they are unable to make any changes, or add or remove any sections from the bill, because this is something vested in the government.
"If Abadi wants the budget bill to pass and carry out his program for the year 2018, he should be committed to our [demands]."
He said their question is: “Over the past three years, Abadi had put the KRG budget share at 17 percent, why is he reducing this year?”
UPDATE: Kurdish MPs boycott despite budget vote not necessarily happening
A second reading for Iraq's 2018 budget bill has taken place in the parliament on Tuesday with Kurdish blocs once again, boycotting the session.
"We initially walked inside. As soon as we realized that the second reading of the budget bill was taking place, we decided to leave the chambers," Zana Rostai, a Kurdish MP and member of the legal committee of the parliament, told Rudaw.
Rostai added they were asked by Salim al-Jabouri, the parliament speaker, to not boycott the session.
In today's session a quorom wasn't met, reported a Rudaw correspondent from Baghdad.
"Though the parliament speaker asked us to remain — saying a voting on the budget bill might not necessarily take place — we rejected his call saying not boycotting would meet the quorum," explained Rostai.
Shirin Dino, another Kurdish MP, said all the five Kurdish parties: KDP, PUK, Gorran, KIU, and Komal, boycotted altogether.
Despite Jabouri's call for the Kurdish blocs to not boycott, Dino said they were sure if the second reading took place, then a voting would ensue.
She said they would do their best to prevent the session from meeting a quorum.
The Sunni blocs alike, have expressed opposition to the budget bill, Dino said.
"From the newly revised draft sent to the parliament by Abadi, the Sunni demands have also not been implemented," she added strongly criticizing the Sunni MPs and blocs since "they did not boycott today's session."
She said that the Shiite Badr bloc MPs threw their support behind the Kurdish demands.
Due to the boycott, the session of parliament was then delayed for half an hour.
Jabouri said on Monday that the proposed budget bill does not follow constitutional and legal procedures, adding that the administration of Abadi has not taken into consideration a call by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to increase the KRG's share of the budget.
He accused the government of making a number of "constitutional and legal" violations when it prepared the draft, including missing an October deadline to table the budget in the parliament and failing to send the parliament an audit of budget expenses for the years 2012-2017. The Iraqi Finance Ministry has also failed to specify the sovereign fund, he said.
The KRG has said on more than one occasion that its share, even when it was 17 percent, was slashed when the sovereign funds was deducted.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that the allocated budget cannot meet the Kurdish needs for the year of 2018.
Kurdish MPs in Baghdad had also boycotted Sunday's parliament session protesting the last minute inclusion of the second reading of the contentious budget bill.
This is a developing story... First posted at 1:17 p.m.