A guard stands in front of the Kurdistan Region's parliament building in the capital of Erbil. Photo: Rudaw
The legislature is the cornerstone of a democracy and an authority that gives legitimacy to the establishment, makes and amends laws. The two ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), should reactivate parliament because of its essential role.
The international community views Kurdistan as a region with a democratic system, substantial oil reserves and strategic geopolitically. The US government was able convince its people and congress to assist the Kurds because of a democratic Kurdistan.
The KDP and PUK met on February 5 and agreed parliament should convene on Monday, February 18, to elect a speaker – almost five months after the September 30 election. The KDP and the Change Movement (Gorran) have also met to discuss the post of parliamentary speaker.
Voters had high hopes for their new parliament, but could face fresh disappointment.
The position of speaker has been given to the PUK, but the party is yet to nominate a candidate for the post. Currently, there are two unofficial candidates. They are both women and incumbent MPs – Begard Talabani and Rewas Fayeq.
Two rival factions within the PUK – revolving around the families of the late Jalal Talabani and Kosrat Rasul Ali – are intensely vying for this post. This is while the post of deputy prime minister has reportedly again been given to Qubad Talabani.
The PUK should finally settle on one candidate for the post of parliamentary speaker and save itself and the KDP from embarrassment. The KDP will then be dealing with one candidate approved by the PUK politburo and leadership council. If the PUK cannot settle on a candidate for the position of parliamentary speaker by Monday, the parliament will not be able to meet.
The KDP reached a deal with Gorran early in their discussions. They agreed to work together to serve the Kurdistan Region, but not against the PUK. This is while the KDP, Gorran and constituents have been waiting for the PUK decision in order for the new cabinet to be finally and completely formed. PUK acting leader Kosrat Rasul Ali met with KDP President Masoud Barzani on February 7. According to PUK officials, the meeting was productive.
The parliamentary meeting on Monday is timed to coincide with the Kirkuk Provincial Council also meeting in Erbil, as per the KDP-PUK agreement. In the Kirkuk meeting, council members are expected to call on the Iraqi federal government to declare an end to the city’s militarization. The PUK has tried unsuccessfully for a year to resolve the problem of Kirkuk with Baghdad, in the absence of the KDP, but Baghdad is more inclined to work with the KDP.
The issue of Kirkuk was a main topic between Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi during talks in Baghdad on February 7. They seem destined to find a solution.
After meeting in Erbil, the Kirkuk Provincial Council is expected to meet in Pirde (Altun Kupri) or elsewhere in Kirkuk province where Turkmen and Arabs would be more willing to participate. The KDP acknowledges the post of Kirkuk governor should be filled by a Kurd. However, the PUK should nominate a person for the post that the KDP supports.
The PUK has asked for the positions of the Kirkuk governor and the Iraqi justice minister as a precondition for the parliamentary meeting scheduled for Monday — thus the reason why the PUK is trying to persuade the KDP for those two positions. On a larger scale, it demonstrates that the PUK wants to rule the Kurdistan Region with the KDP for four more years.
The PUK, which holds 21 parliamentary seats, has requested six ministries. Gorran, which holds 12 seats, wants four ministries. However, this would collectively hand these parties more control than the KDP — which secured 45 parliamentary seats. This is proportionality unacceptable even if we consider this from a geographical perspective — the power shares of Sulaimani and Halabja being greater than those of Erbil and Duhok.
During its 27 years of governance in the Kurdistan Region, the KDP has never asked any party for a post it was not entitled to occupy. It is other parties, especially the PUK, which have consistently asked for posts that the KDP has been entitled to fill in Erbil and Baghdad. The KDP has always been kind enough to give its shares for the sake of political, social, and economic stability in the Kurdistan Region.
This time, however, KDP supporters and members have told KDP leaders it should not give its shares to other parties, especially the PUK. KDP President Masoud Barzani will ultimately make a final decision.
The KDP in collaboration with other parties could form a democratically elected government without the PUK — but it would not be an easy task. A government in which the PUK does not participate cannot serve the interests of the people of Kurdistan. The PUK should know the KDP would not form the new cabinet without them. They should also realize time is running out.
Hevidar Ahmed is a new member of the Kurdistan Region parliament and a former Rudaw journalist.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.