MESOP FOCAL POINT : A KURDISH GENERAL DELAY – General elections likely to be delayed in Iraqi Kurdistan, KDP says

7 Jan 2017 – HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Crucial parliamentary elections set for September in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region will probably be postponed because of persisting political disputes, economic hardships and the unfinished war with the Islamic State militants in Iraq, party officials told Rudaw Friday.

The polls, if held, would have reshuffled the 111-seat regional parliament in Erbil which has virtually been shut down since October 2015 after deepening disagreements among Kurdish factions two years ago.

Head of the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) parliamentary faction predicted on Friday that the “unresolved political issues and financial concerns” would delay the polls which also could have included a vote on the region’s draft constitution and a referendum on further independence from Baghdad.

“The KDP has been prepared for the elections to take place on time, but unfortunately the current state of affairs in Kurdistan with the ISIS war, political rivalries and financial difficulties tell us that the polls will not take place on time,” KDP’s Omed Khoshnaw told Rudaw.

Khoshnaw did not give a timetable as to when the elections would take place if they were postponed beyond the September deadline.

Khoshnaw’s prediction is shared by another party official from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Haji Karwan, who said the polls would only take place if the political parties reached a consensus on key political issues including the post of the region’s presidency currently held by the KDP.

“According to most expectations, the elections will be postponed, but if there is a political will and consensus, I think the vote will be held as planned,” Karwan told Rudaw.

A key issue at the centre of the disagreements is the position and constitutional form of the presidency in the region which the KDP wants to be elected directly in a popular vote with sweeping executive powers.

The opposition Change Movement (Gorran), however, has passionately campaigned for a constitutional president that is accordingly elected by the parliament with as few executive powers as possible, something the KDP has categorically rejected.

The Kurdish draft constitution, passed in the regional parliament in 2009 with a overwhelming majority, is in line with the KDP position regarding a more powerful president. But the draft needs to be put to referendum before it is established as the Kurdistan Region’s constitution, something Gorran has opposed due to its concerns for the post of presidency, among others.

The crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan erupted after Massoud Barzani’s term as Kurdistan President ended on August 20, 2015 but refused to step down and remains unofficially in office.

According to the law, Barzani cannot run for presidency anymore and his term cannot be extended. But Barzani said in March 2016 “I will not leave power until Kurdistan get statehood”.

Kurdish opposition politicians accuse KDP and Barzani of using the war against Islamic State and self-determination issues as means to stay in power and monopoly it.

The five main Kurdish parties, the KDP,  PUK, Change (Gorran) Movement, KIU and KIG failed to reach an agreement on presidency post, due KDP members insist that Massoud Barzani should remain president of the region.

Since October 2015 the Kurdistan parliament parliament has been in recess after Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament’s Speaker Yusuf Mohammad Sadiq was prevented from entering Erbil city on October 12, 2015 and Kurdistan PM Nechirvan Barzani has removed four members of his cabinet from the Change Movement and replaced them with KDP politicians.