Extremists, Oil or Kirkuk? Iraqi Kurdistan’s Next Big Crisis: Its Presidency
Several weeks ago Iraqi Kurdish MPs got into a fist fight in Parliament. The cause: Whether the current President could run for another term legally. Is this a democracy or a dictatorship? critics are asking.
As the Iraqi Kurdish continue to fight extremists from the group known as the Islamic State, and as they continue to argue with the federal government about their share of the national budget, there is another crisis looming on the political horizon.
On August 20, 2015, the official term of office is over for the semi-autonomous northern region’s President, Massoud Barzani.
Barzani, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s two most powerful parties, who is widely seen as a strong leader, has already managed to extend his term in office once. The move, which came in August 2013, involved what some would describe as clever use of legislation and others would consider undemocratic and verging on dictatorship.
The same debate is now surfacing again as locals argue about whether now is the right time to loose a strong leader and bring in someone new. Over the past few months other political issues had been put on the back burner as the different Kurdish factions achieved a level of unity, as they were forced to react to the threat presented by the Islamic State, or IS, group takeover of parts of Iraq. Now that consensus is disappearing as scrappy politics return.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, as in many countries, there is a special law that gives every person the right to be President for a limited number of consecutive terms; according to current laws in the semi-autonomous region, the President of the region may only remain in power for two terms. A term is four years. And Barzani completed his two terms in the middle of 2013.
Shortly before Barzani would have had to step down, the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament, which was dominated by Barzani’s own party and an ally, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, with whom the KDP traditionally shares power, invited him to extend his term for two years. This was due to a kind of legal loophole that said that because elections were not properly recognised in 2005, that the 2009 elections actually resulted in Barzani’s first term.