Nechirvan takes the Crown in the KRG

Here at the NCF we are thrilled at the election of our old friend HE Nechirvan Barzani to be the next President of the Kurdistan Region.

Under his leadership as Prime Minister, Kurdistan weathered extraordinarily difficult times: a war against ISIS, an enormous and complex humanitarian crisis, and an economic crisis brought on by a precipitous crash in oil prices and an unfortunately timed referendum on independence that also resulted in the loss of much of the disputed territories including Kirkuk. Despite long odds in the past five years, under his leadership Kurdistan survived and is setting the stage for a renewed period of peace and prosperity.

Prime Minister Barzani will be inaugurated as President on June 10 in Erbil. His first order of business will be to designate a Prime Minister to form a government. Already, there is much excitement about the prospects and priorities in the new government. The expected Premier is likely to be the outgoing President’s son, Masrour Barzani, the current Chancellor of the KRG.

This move forward would not have been possible but for an alliance between the old established Barzani party, the KDP, and the new reformist anti-corruption party, Goran. But it comes at a price. The party left out in the cold is the PUK, a party traditionally associated with East Kurdistan and the Talabani family. See the following from Iraq Oil Report:

Kurdistan begins government formation despite unresolved divisions

The KRG Parliament elected Nechirvan Barzani president, as the rival PUK party boycotted and questioned his “political legitimacy.”

By  of 
 
ERBIL – Nechirvan Barzani was elected president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region on Tuesday, despite the potentially destabilizing breakdown of a political deal between his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its most powerful rival.
 
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which effectively rules the eastern half of the region, boycotted the Parliament session in which Barzani was elected, and accused the KDP of failing to honor an agreement that had been negotiated over more than half a year.
 
“The election of Kurdistan’s president without the vote of PUK MPs raises concerns about the decision-making process and political legitimacy,” the PUK politburo said in a Tuesday statement. “Whatever the consequences of these unrealistic politics, it will not be the responsibility of PUK; it will be the other side’s responsibility.”
 
Barzani, who is currently the prime minister, is expected to name his cousin, Masrur Barzani – currently the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) security chief, and son of former KRG President Massoud Barzani – to be the next prime minister, and task him with forming a government after the Eid holiday.
The KDP and PUK have faced a political quandary ever since the KDP won a lopsided victory in regional elections eight months ago. While the KDP had enough seats in Parliament to lead the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without the PUK, both parties have viewed such a scenario as a threat to the region’s stability.
 
Despite the KRG’s aspirations toward democracy, the KDP and PUK exercise command over their own security forces and split de facto control over the western and eastern halves of Iraqi Kurdistan, respectively – a legacy of a decades-long rivalry between the parties, which fought a civil war in the 1990s. 
If the PUK were excluded from a new government in Erbil, leaders in both parties worry it would push the KRG back toward the days of “dual administration” over Kurdistan. That, in turn, would weaken the regional government, which has functioned as a vehicle for inter-party coordination on key issues related to the oil sector, the economy, and relations with Baghdad.
 
In an effort to forge some unity, the parties have been negotiating a deal that attempts to give the PUK enough political incentive to join a KDP-led government while also ensuring the KDP a level of political dominance reflecting its election victory. 
The parties recently appeared to reach an agreement under which the PUK would support Nechirvan and Masrur Barzani, and the KDP would help its rival regain the governorship of Kirkuk, a position now held by Rakan al-Jiburi, the first Arab governor of Kirkuk since 2003. 
But those negotiations have also been complicated by internal divisions within the PUK. 
It appeared the two sides had achieved a breakthrough, when one senior PUK leader, Kosrat Rasul, agreed on a short list of three prospective candidates for Kirkuk governor with Massoud Barzani, the former president, who still wields power as the head of the KDP. But other leaders within the PUK did not agree on the candidates, leading the party to insist the KDP essentially write a blank check to support any PUK nominee – a proposal the KDP has consistently rejected.
 
Following the apparent agreement between Rasul and Massoud Barzani, however, Parliament was already mobilized to elect Barzani; at the same time, the PUK was reverting back to its hard-line position. KDP members of the regional Parliament claimed they did not know the PUK was boycotting until just before the vote.
 
“The PUK informed us about its boycott just a few minutes before the session,” said Umed Khoshnaw, head of the KDP’s bloc in the Kurdistan Parliament, in a press conference Tuesday. “We are concerned about this issue. If we had wanted to elect the president of Kurdistan without PUK, we could have done it six months ago.”
 
PUK leaders say the KDP is responsible for the breakdown of their agreement.
 
“We boycotted the session because the KDP has not taken any practical step toward honoring our agreement,” said Shamol Sabir, a PUK member of the Kurdistan Parliament.
 
Nechirvan Barzani received 68 votes, including 45 from the KDP and 12 from Gorran, a party that was originally formed as an offshoot of the PUK and competes for votes in much of the same territory. The PUK’s 21 MPs, as well as eight MPs belonging to the New Generation party, did not attend the session.

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