Skip to main content

Kurdish parliament to reallocate presidential powers of Barzani

Barzani comes under fire after organising 25 September referendum on Kurdish independence that triggered crisis with Baghdad
President Massoud Barzani of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region (AFP)

Parliament in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said it will meet on Sunday to redistribute the powers of President Massoud Barzani, who is facing pressure to quit after last month's independence vote.

Barzani will not extend his presidential term beyond 1 November, a Kurdish government official said on Saturday. A plan to divide up the president's powers was outlined in a letter Barzani sent to the Kurdish parliament, which it will discuss on Sunday, the official said.

Parliament decided earlier this week to freeze the activities of Barzani, his vice-president Kosrat Rasul and the head of the presidential cabinet, Fuad Hussein.

Barzani came under growing opposition from his detractors after he organised the 25 September referendum on Kurdish independence that triggered a deep crisis with Baghdad.

Iraq’s federal government opposed the vote, which it deemed unconstitutional, and its forces have since seized a swathe of disputed territory from Kurdish fighters.

Iraqi Kurdistan's main opposition party, the Goran movement, called on Barzani to step down after the loss of Kurdish-controlled territory.

Kurdish MP Iden Maarouf said parliament will decide how best to "redistribute the president's powers" among the legislative, executive and judicial authorities.

In spite of scoring a major victory with a resounding "yes" for independence in the referendum, Barzani now finds himself increasingly isolated.

After the vote, the sweeping operation by the central government reclaimed from the Kurds swathes of territory and oil fields in and around the disputed province of Kirkuk.

The loss of the oilfields, which provided income that would have been critical to an independent Kurdish state, sparked recriminations among the Kurds.

ANALYSIS: Kurdish dream of statehood sunk by rows and reckless decisions
Read More »

Two main parties dominate political life in Kurdistan, Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of late Iraqi president Jalal Talabani.

Iraq's current president, Fuad Masum, is also a member of the PUK and had supported a UN-backed push for dialogue between the Kurds and Baghdad before the referendum.

After the vote, Masum said the independence referendum had triggered the assault on Kirkuk.

On Tuesday, when parliament froze Barzani's powers, it also announced its decision to hold legislative elections in eight months.

Regional legislative and presidential elections had both been due on 1 November, but were postponed after Baghdad seized territory and oilfields from the Kurds.

The Kurdish parliament has not set a date for a new presidential election.

The mandate of Barzani, the first and only elected president of the autonomous Kurdish region, expired in 2013.

It was extended for two years and then continued in the chaos that followed the Islamic State group's sweeping offensive across Iraq in 2014.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.