The Judicial Council of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, the highest judicial authority in the region, has extended the term of KRG President Massoud Barzani for two years, with the same authority, according to the Kurdish new website Basnews.
The Council released a statement on Monday in which it said Barzani will remain the president of the KRG until the 2017 KRG general election, without a reduction in his power.
“Our decision is advisory as well mandatory,” the Council said.
“According to KRG’s judicial system, for every draft law in the region, the Council, which is independent, must approve it before it goes back to the Parliament,” Nariman Talib Moryassi, spokesman for the KRG’s Justice Ministry, told Basnews affirming the council decision.
The five main Kurdish parties in the KRG are scheduled to meet in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil to discuss the KRG presidential crisis.
The main political forces have debated President Massoud Barzani’s term extension during the last week and consider what kind of governance model is a viable option for the Iraqi Kurds for the time being.
Barzani has been in power since 2005 and his term will officially end on Aug. 20. He was first elected to the regional presidency in June 2005 by the members of Iraqi Kurdistan parliament and reelected in July 2009 by a popular vote in the first direct presidential election of the region.
He has also been leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) since 1979 succeeding his father Mullah Mustafa Barzani as the head of the party.
His term should have ended in mid-2013 according to the KRG regulations, however, backed by his arch rival Jalal Talabani’s party Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), he was able to extend the legal two-term limit in his favour for two more years invalidating much of the opposition at the parliament in Arbil.
In mid-June 2015, the high election board of the KRG announced that the presidential election could not be held on Aug. 20 due to inadequate budget and limited time, the pro-Barzani media outlet Rudaw reported. President of the board Handrem Muhammad said the elections will be delayed, but he did not say when it will be held.
Currently, there has been a serious debate in the region surrounding Barzani’s presidency and the election process. The KDP defends that the president of the region should be elected by popular vote while the PUK, and other parties like the Goran (It means change in Kurdish) Movement and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komela Islam) argue that the president should be elected by the parliament.
Basically, the confrontation of the Iraqi Kurdistan political forces seems to illustrate a disagreement of the main parties on the governance model of the region where Barzani and his supporters are on the side of a presidential system as his rivals seek to reduce his presidential powers by strengthening parliamentary system.
As a result, current proximate balance of power and strong differences of opinion in the region create a deadlock in the politics of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In the latest development, Barzani called in a statement on Aug. 9 a referendum to break the deadlock and leave the ultimate decision to people to choose the way the president should be elected, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported on Monday.
Barzani previously invoked essential unity of the Kurdish factions in the region saying that “Kurdistan is going through an exceptional and important phase. Now more than ever before, we need our ranks to be united,” referring to the rapid developments on the Iraqi political landscape in a speech in late March.