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11:51, 17 January 2018 Wednesday
14:46, 10 August 2015 Monday

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Barzani calls for referendum on presidency polls
Barzani calls for referendum on presidency polls

Call comes amid ongoing debate between Kurdish parties over Kurdish Regional Government’s system of government

World Bulletin / News Desk

Masoud Barzani, whose term as president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is set to end on August 20, has called for a popular referendum to decide how upcoming elections should be conducted, according to a Sunday statement.

He made the announcement after opposition parties in the Kurdish Regional Parliament submitted a bill calling for the amendment of legislation regulating parliamentary and presidential elections.

Recent weeks have seen fierce debate between Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and opposition parties over how to elect a new president and what system of government the KRG should adopt.

Barzani and his party say the chief executive should be chosen directly by the people, while opposition parties want the president to be chosen by members of parliament.

KRG presidential elections had initially been slated for August 20, the same day on which Barzani’s term will expire, with Barzani intending to run for a fresh term with the support of his party.

The KDP-led government, however, recently postponed the polls – citing economic conditions and regional instability – and declared that Barzani would remain at the helm for another two years.  

Curtailing the executive

Rival Kurdish parties, for their part, including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Movement for Change (known as “Gorran” in Kurdish), want Barzani’s executive powers curtailed and parliamentary authority strengthened.

To this end, the PUK and Gorran both submitted a draft presidency law to parliament on June 23, but Barzani’s KDP – along with Turkmen and Christian MPs – boycotted the session, causing friction between the KDP on one hand and the PUK and Gorran on the other.

The KDP supports the current system, in which the president is chosen directly by the public. The PUK and Gorran, meanwhile, want the president to be chosen by parliament.

Barzani, for his part, is now calling for a popular referendum to allow the public to choose the best political system – presidential or parliamentary – for the KRG.

Currently, with only 38 MPs in the assembly, the KDP needs 56 additional seats to secure Barzani’s reelection. The Islamic Unity Party (Yekgirt), which has ten seats in the assembly, is expected to support the KDP.

Barzani was elected president via popular vote in 2005. When his term expired in 2013, the KRG parliament extended his mandate until August 20 of this year. Parliament is now poised to unilaterally extend it for the second time.

The 111-seat Kurdish Regional Parliament is currently shared between the KDP (38 seats), Gorran (24 seats), the PUK (18), Yekgirt (ten seats) and Komela Islam (six seats). The assembly’s remaining 15 seats are held by various other small parties.



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