ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – During a panel on the first day of the Middle East Peace and Security Forum at the American University of Kurdistan – Duhok on Tuesday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani underlined that changing Iraq’s constitution would not solve the country’s problems.
A wave of nationwide anti-corruption protests began in early October, demanding a complete governmental overhaul amid shortages of public services, high rates of unemployment, and chronic institutional corruption. The Iraqi government has struggled to respond to the protestors’ demands.
Deputy PM Talabani said he does not see “constitutional reform or an amendment to the constitution as a solution to the problems of Iraq.”
“I actually think the fact that the constitution of Iraq has not been implemented is a problem that has created many problems we see in Iraq,” he stated.
“This is another red herring. We cannot get electricity working, we cannot get water running, we cannot get healthcare services fixed, so let’s amend the constitution.”
“What article of the Iraqi constitution today prohibits or limits electricity reform? What article of the constitution prohibits or limits healthcare reform?” The KRG Deputy PM asked.
“Let’s embroil the country in a two to three-year debate about the constitution, while we had the last 10 to 12 years of not implementing the last one. I find this debate on the constitution purely a distraction to the real issues.”
Talabani underlined that governance structures must be fixed in Iraq.
“My vision for fixing the problems is to address the real root causes of the people’s unhappiness which comes down to basic services, a lack of jobs, and also a lack of security,” he noted.
Former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who also participated in the panel on Tuesday, said tackling good governance “is absolutely a key point,” adding that “corruption is not accepted, but ongoing.”
Kouchner highlighted the progress the Kurdistan Region had made, in particular, the city of Duhok, which he said he visited when “it was a village.”
“It is not enough, there is not enough balance between the poor and the rich, but it is a fantastic development, and you were successful.”
At the conclusion of the panel, Deputy PM Talabani promised that the new KRG cabinet would tackle these problems.
“I am optimistic [about] what we will achieve in the next four years. We have a very clear agenda,” he stated.
According to the senior Kurdish leader, the new cabinet’s agenda is focused on reform and “building institutions that can deliver.” He added that there “is a great synergy” between himself and Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.
“We have prioritized what we need to do, and we have a clear vision, and we are going to do whatever we can to deliver on that vision,” Talabani affirmed.
“We will continue to work to overcome our internal differences – which we must – and this is something we occasionally need help from and guidance from our friends around the world.”
He added that the KRG had enacted reforms that have improved electricity, and also those that will enhance the quality of healthcare and education, which will increase the number of jobs in the private sector.
“That will, I think, lead to a happier population in Kurdistan. We will show Iraq and the region and our friends how it should be done.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany