MPs challenge Massoud Barzani

By Bassem Francis – Al-Hayat – Translated by Al-Monitor from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab) – 12.1.2013 – Fifty-three members of the Kurdistan Parliamentsigned a draft law to change the system of governance from presidential to parliamentary, as well as to define the powers of the president and to elect him in parliament.

Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani, downplayed the importance of the step.

The opposition had managed to win the support of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani, to return the draft of the constitution to parliament to be amended amid attempts to implement the above-mentioned change in governance.

Abdullah Mala Nuri, MP from the opposition Change bloc, told Al-Hayat that “53 MPs from different blocs, with the exception of the Democratic Party, signed a draft law to change the governance system from presidential to parliamentary, as well as to define the powers of the president and elect him in parliament.” She added that according to the draft law, which has been submitted to the speaker of the parliament, the president should have two vice presidents, one female and another a minority. The law also stipulates that the president may not serve more than two terms.

The Kurdistan Regional Parliament consists of 110 seats, most of which are occupied by the Patriotic Union Party and the Democratic Party.

Opponents believe that the timing of the move will adversely affect “Kurdish unity” as the Kurdistan region traverses a “critical and delicate” phase, especially in light of the existing crisis with the central government and the tension and unrest that is currently plaguing the region in general. In response to criticism, Nuri said, “These excuses are meant to keep the situation as is and maintain the absence of justice, the monopolization of power and the violation of human rights. We believe that the region is going through a very difficult situation and that this is the best moment to bring about reform. Procrastination will lead us into an abyss and we may already be too late.” He stressed that “most of the parliamentary blocs support this draft with the exception of the Democratic Party MPs, who also oppose returning the draft constitution to Parliament.”

In contrast, Democratic Party MP Abdul Salam Berwari told Al-Hayat that “the nature of the political system has been identified in Kurdistan’s draft constitution, which has not been put to referendum yet, and any proposal of this kind is completely in vain because we do not have a legal text to define the system. “This comes as part of using the media to distract people. We do not have a legal text, and the question is what are we discussing? The amendment of an item in a constitution that has not been passed yet? I think the political parties discussed the issue in order to set up a mechanism to return the draft to parliament. This process, however, is based on rules and laws, and this is just a bubble in the air. Any opinion expressed by the Kurdistan Alliance is worthless, be it for or against the draft,” Berwari added.

Berwari criticized the opposition because “it is still new and does not know how to assume its role in a democratic system. It is still acting as if it were under the former regime by opposing the regime and mobilizing masses against it. Statements made by its MPs might be amplified but none of them have any legal value. They have forgotten that they are part of the political system and that they need to provide a better alternative and convince voters that they were wrong to vote for other parties.”