Barzani sent a letter to the KRG parliament asking to distribute his powers among the regional government.

KRG leader Massud Barzani speaks during a press conference on September 24, 2017 in Arbil, the capital of the KRG region of northern Iraq, on the eve of a disputed independence referendum.
KRG leader Massud Barzani speaks during a press conference on September 24, 2017 in Arbil, the capital of the KRG region of northern Iraq, on the eve of a disputed independence referendum. (AFP)

Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government leader Masoud Barzani will not extend his presidential term beyond November 1, a KRG official said on Saturday.

His decision came just weeks after a referendum on KRG independence backfired and triggered a crisis for Iraq's Kurds who had been enjoying a period of unprecedented autonomy.

A plan to divide up the regional president's powers was outlined in a letter Barzani sent to the KRG parliament on Saturday, the official said. The plan asks parliament to distribute the president's powers among the government, parliament and judiciary.

Barzani's current term was set to expire in four days, the same date that presidential and parliamentary elections were due to be held. However, those elections were delayed indefinitely last week, amidst an escalating regional crisis.

Critics say the September 25 independence referendum, orchestrated and championed by the 71-year-old Barzani, has left a bleak outlook for Iraq's Kurds.

Less than four weeks after Kurds in the region voted overwhelmingly to break away from Iraq, the central government launched a military offensive to wrest back the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds regard as both their spiritual homeland, and a key source of revenue for their would-be independent state. It was one of several retaliatory measures taken by Baghdad, which vehemently opposed the referendum along with other international powers.

In a matter of days, the Iraqi government has transformed the balance of power in the north of the country, exerting tremendous pressure on Barzani to step aside. Iraqi forces have continued to advance on all Kurdish-held territory outside the autonomous region's borders.

Iraq’s prime minister demanded on Thursday that Kurds declare their independence referendum void, rejecting the KRG autonomous region’s offer to suspend its independence push to resolve a crisis through talks.

Barzani's term was expiring

Earlier this year, Barzani said he did not intend to stand in the November elections. However, prior to the referendum, few expected he would stick to his promise.

Barzani has held the office of the presidency since 2005. The region last held a presidential election in 2009, in which Barzani won. His term of office expired in 2013 and was extended twice.

The region's president is expected to address his people before his term formally expires, marking the end of a storied career.

Barzani was born in 1946, soon after his legendary father, Mulla Mustafa, founded a party to fight for the rights of Iraq's Kurds. 

After decades spent fighting with the Peshmerga, Barzani became a central figure in the drive to create an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Barzani's letter will be discussed by parliament on Sunday, though the government official said it was unclear whether ministers would need to vote the plan into action during the session.

Source: Reuters