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Erbil-Baghdad Unity of Kurdistan must top president’s agenda

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Erbil-Baghdad Unity of Kurdistan must top president’s agenda

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun May 19, 2019 8:45 pm

Erbil-Baghdad ties, unity of Kurdistan
must top president’s agenda

Mending ties between Erbil and Baghdad and preserving the unity of Kurdistan must top the agenda of the Region’s next president, a panel organized by Rudaw Research Center said Sunday

The panel, titled “The President of the Kurdistan Region in the next four years,” took place in Erbil shortly after the Kurdistan regional parliament’s presidency board announced the nomination of five candidates for the top job.

The five nominees include outgoing KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Omed Abdulsalam, Mohammed Hamasalih, Rebwar Aziz Mustafah, and Hiwa Khidir Abdullah.

Nechirvan Barzani, nephew of former president Masoud Barzani who resigned in October 2017, is widely expected to secure the job with 90 votes in the 111-seat legislature.

Paul Landry, head of the French Cultural Institute, said the greatest challenge facing the Region’s next president is “preserving” the territorial unity of the Region.

Mamand Rozha, head of Rudaw’s Research Center, agreed that the primary challenge for the next president’s rule is the current division of the Region, mainly caused by party control over armed forces.

“The first duty of Kurdistan Region’s president in these coming four years is for the constitution to be passed through the parliament,” argued Rozha, who said this would help to further unify the Region.

Dr. Mohammed Askar, a Saudi political expert, agreed the next president faces “truly difficult tasks” in addressing Iraq’s unity, maintaining the unity of the Region, and establishing connections with the Kurdish populations in Iran, Syria, Turkey, and the diaspora.

The Kurdistan Region provinces of Erbil and Duhok are dominated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), while Sulaimani and Halabja are dominated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Both command Peshmerga units, which champions of reform say undermines the Region’s democratic institutions.

The two parties were locked in negotiations since the September 30 parliamentary election to strike a power-sharing deal. Failure to reach a compromise could have seen the Region geographically break in two.

Dr. Nadim al-Jabiri, previously head of the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila) of Iraq, argued that the main task for the regional president is to mend relations with Baghdad.

He warned the condition of the relationship between the center and the Region is still vague. The main issue is Baghdad’s urge for centralization and in the Region’s impulse for decentralization.

The “growth” of a nationalist Kurdish project towards independence both among the ruling elite and the population is one side of the problem, while an urge for authoritarianism in Baghdad is the other side of the problem, Jabiri said.

“That is the main problem in my opinion … Reassuring messages need to be sent to Baghdad,” he added.

Relations between Erbil and Baghdad hit their lowest ebb in the immediate aftermath of the Kurdistan independence referendum in September 2017. Tensions had already been running high in a spat over the Region’s independent oil sales, which had led Baghdad to scrap Erbil’s share of the federal budget.

Angered by the vote for independence, Baghdad imposed an embargo on the Region’s international airports. Then in October 2017, Iraqi forces and Iran-backed paramilitias seized control of the territories disputed between the federal government and the Kurdistan Region, including oil-rich Kirkuk.

Relations have since thawed and improved dramatically since Adil Abdul-Mahdi became Iraqi prime minister.

The Regional president is the highest executive authority in the Region and is the commander-in-chief of armed forces. For the first time in the Region’s history, the president will be elected by the parliament and not by the electorate.
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Erbil-Baghdad Unity of Kurdistan must top president’s agenda



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