ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – As negotiations over the future Kurdistan Regional government continue, a senior lawmaker on Thursday reaffirmed during a briefing that parliament would convene on Monday to vote on the assembly’s speakership and deputies.
The lawmaker’s statement was made after a meeting in Erbil between the heads of each faction in Parliament. The meeting comes days before lawmakers are due reconvene to break the months-long political deadlock and vote on the parliamentary leadership posts.
Lawmakers had their first session on Nov. 6, when all but three members took their oaths of office, after which the meeting was adjourned. The three have since relinquished their posts as MPs and their respective parties announced their replacements, who are expected to be officially voted in on Monday, when the session is due to resume.
Disagreements and delays on the formation of a new cabinet are chiefly the result of haggling over which parties' members are allotted which government positions.
“We agreed that the meeting should take place,” said Hemin Hawrami, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) faction in the Kurdistan Parliament. “And,” he affirmed, “it will take place.”
The KDP, with 45 seats, is the winner of the regional election held on Sept. 30. The Kurdistan Region has a unicameral legislature with 111 seats, with five seats each reserved for Turkmen and Christian parties and one for an Armenian party.
The KDP and the runner-up, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – winner of 21 seats – have discussed drafting a joint-program, which reportedly includes, but is not limited to, agreements on posts within the regional and federal governments.
The deal would also contain proposals on issues concerning leadership positions in governing bodies of Kirkuk Province, an ethnically diverse area beset by tensions and insecurity.
Kirkuk’s issues have been especially pronounced in the past two years, starting on Oct. 16, 2017, when Iraqi security forces along with Hashd al-Shaabi militias overran the areas disputed between the regional and federal governments, forcing the Kurdish Peshmerga to retreat. Baghdad then imposed Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri as governor of Kirkuk, ousting Najmaldin Karim, a Kurd who enjoyed enormous support across various ethnic and religious groups in the province.
Now, with ties improving, more notably after a new government in Baghdad came into power in late 2018 with Adil Abdul-Mahdi at its head, the two leading Kurdish parties, the KDP and PUK – together the majority members of Kirkuk’s Provincial Council – are set to meet on Friday to finalize talks on matters of leadership, including that of the disputed province, and possibly ink a new partnership.
In tandem with these developments, the second runner-up with 12 seats, Change Movement (Gorran), is in talks with the KDP to enter the coalition government, on which a concrete deal is yet to be reached.
The chief demand, among others, informed sources privy to the ongoing negotiations have told Kurdistan 24, is the post of deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The post of deputy PM of the outgoing government is currently held by Qubad Talabani of the PUK, which, in the previous parliament, had fewer seats than Gorran and was the third-place-holder.
With Gorran in third place now, it claims they are entitled to the deputyship. The PUK is set to take the post of Parliamentary Speaker, for which it has two female candidates, a first in the history of the region for that specific post.
The KDP is close to signing separate deals with both parties, informed sources have told Kurdistan 24 - Friday with the PUK and Saturday with Gorran.
Editing by Nadia Riva