Fate of Kurdish Presidency Divides Kurds

By Mohammed A. Salih for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Fate of Kurdish Presidency Divides Iraqi Kurds

As the tenure of Iraqi Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzani (pictured) is coming to an end soon, the question of transfer of power has divided Kurdish political factions and threatens to destabilize the Kurdistan Region of Iraq amid an ongoing war against the Islamic State (IS).

Barzani has been president for 10 years. When his term was about to end in June 2013, his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and then-ally Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — led by former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani — agreed to extend his term via a parliamentary motion for two years.

The legal provisions introduced in June 2013 to extend Barzani’s term explicitly state that the president’s tenure will not be prolonged for more than two years. This two-year period will end on Aug. 19.

However, with just three months left to the end of Barzani’s term, there has been no breakthrough yet as to how to resolve the legal and political dilemma of whether a power transfer will take place or who should hold the office of president after the August deadline.

“From our perspective, Barzani no longer has the right to retain the office of president,” said Rewaz Fayaq, the head of the PUK’s 18-member bloc in the Kurdistan parliament, which has a total of 111 seats. “For him to stay in office it would need amending the presidency law and that is impossible,” she told Al-Monitor.

Barzani’s presidency and its extension was made possible by a power-sharing deal between his party and the PUK, whereby Barzani became the president of Iraqi Kurdistan and Talabani became Iraq’s president.

Fayaq argues that the deal no longer stands, and the fact that a leading PUK figure, Fouad Massoum, became Iraq’s president last summer with support from the KDP and other Kurdish parties has nothing to do with the power-sharing agreement between the two parties. According to Fayaq, it was because of the PUK’s status as the second-largest Kurdish vote-getter in the Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2014.

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