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 Speaker of Kurdistan parliament promises change, but Kurdish opposition parties doubtful

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Speaker of Kurdistan parliament promises change, but Kurdish opposition parties doubtful  25.2.2012  

Arsalan Bayiz elected as the new speaker of Kurdistan parliament
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February 25, 2012

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — How will the Kurdish Parliament look a year and a half from now? Will the parliament become a center of reconciliation between the various coalitions and their differences, as the new speaker of parliament has said, or will the present trend of boycotts by the opposition continue?

"We spent half of our time saying ‘no, sit down’ or ‘please delete his comment from the registry,’” Rebaz Fatah, the deputy head of the Change Movement (Gorran) recently wrote on his Facebook page, referring to the parliamentary sessions of the past two years.

The Kurdistan Region Parliament voted in Arsalan Bayiz, a senior official with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as the new speaker of Parliament, and Hassan Muhammad Sura, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), as his deputy.

The past two years were particularly challenging for the former speaker of Parliament, Kemal Kirkuki, thanks to the emergence of three opposition parties following the 2009 elections.

Kirkuki’s performance was often criticized by opposition MPs, who complained that they didn’t have any freedoms in Parliament.

But Omar Nurradin, a Parliament member, believes that MPs had the freedom to speak and, if there were restrictions, it was only due to the rules of the parliament.

Opposition MPs were particularly angry for the passing of the region’s budget while they boycotted parliament. But the speaker of parliament at the time argued that the coalition of the PUK and KDP had the majority of seats and didn’t need the opposition’s approval for passing the bill.

In his swearing in speech, Bayiz, the new speaker of parliament, said, "We want to work to make this parliament a uniting point between the various opinions of the different groups. We will try to create a balance between the different coalitions, to listen to everyone, to try through meeting with various committees to listen to each other and get closer to one another in passing laws and bills in parliament."

Does this speech mean the members of parliament will have more powers and rights to air their opinion?

Abdullah Mala Nuri, a Gorran MP, told Rudaw that Bayiz said "beautiful things" in his speech about changing the guidelines of parliament, having more active committees and involving people's participation.

"These are all great things to do, but how can this speech be put into action? Only time will tell," Mala Nuri said.

Dilshad Shahab, an MP from the Kurdistani Coalition, believes that Bayiz’s speech shows that the new speaker of parliament wants to make changes.

Mala Nuri, who is known for his heated arguments in the past with the former speaker of parliament, believes that having the desire for change is not enough.

“If the new speaker of the parliament has the will to make changes, change is possible, but only having the will is not enough,” he said. “The will has to be that of the political process that made him the speaker of parliament."

Goran Azad, an MP from the Kurdistani Coalition, believes that, "It is important for the PUK and KDP, for the coalition majority, to make parliament more active in passing laws and overseeing such beliefs must become a principle for them."

Azad said the next two years can be used by parliament to pass laws and bills that were delayed in the previous round.

"There are more than 50 laws in parliament to be passed. Some of them could be combined, some delayed, but they must all be discussed," he said.

According to Azad, the most important laws to revise and reform are “the demonstration laws, access to information, the judicial system and the funding for the political parties."

Muhammad Hussein, a political observer, believes that future parliamentary sessions will be less turbulent, for the opposition MPs have gained more experience and Nechirvan Barzani, the new prime minister, enjoys more freedom from his KDP party that will allow him to curb political interference in the government.

Kurdistan Region’s 111-seat Parliament was established in 1992.

By Adnan Hussein

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