Barzani Accepts Extended Presidency, Says He Was Not Interested in Running Again

RUDAW – 17.7.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani ended weeks of speculations on Tuesday by accepting a parliamentary decision that extended his presidency for two more years.

“After consultation with most of Kurdistan’s political parties, I decided not to reject the extension of my term,” Barzani said in a speech. On June 30, the Kurdish parliament decided to extend Barzani’s presidency for two more years, following an agreement by the two ruling parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Barzani’s own Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which hold the majority of seats in the regional legislature.

Barzani did not sign the copy of the parliamentary decree sent to him on the extension within the 15 days he was expected to, but according to parliamentary rules it still automatically goes into effect.“I now stand before an alliance with the PUK and other parties that are present in parliament and who decided to extend my presidency without my own participation in the decision,” Barzani said his in speech.

Barzani said that he respected the will of parliament, as well as the people of Kurdistan who had voted for that parliament. “And from this moment on, I ask the parliament to resolve the issue of the constitution and find a new mechanism for the election of president within one year,” said Barzani.

In the meantime, Barzani criticized opposition groups for creating a political crisis and not heeding to his calls for a consensus to resolve a months-long political stalemate.“But let me tell the people of Kurdistan that I was not interested in running again for president,” Barzani continued. “I will abide by the law and hand over this task to whoever the people will elect.”The support of PUK leaders and their MPs in parliament was crucial in extending Barzani’s presidency. However, many PUK members were dismayed by their party’s unconditional alliance with the KDP.Following parliament’s decision on the extension, PUK and KDP leaders said that the move was to prevent a power vacuum while all parties were in the middle of amending the constitution and drafting a new election law.

The political bureau of the PUK released a statement on Tuesday, congratulating Barzani on the extension and describing his acceptance as “a responsible act”.Meanwhile, leaders of Kurdistan’s three opposition groups, the Change Movement (Gorran), the Islamic Union and the Islamic League have said they will gather to discuss Barzani’s decision and pick their next course of action. Abdullah Malanuri, a Gorran MP, said that opposition MPs may consider pulling out of parliament in protest.