Massoud Barzani's re-election plans for
Kurdistan presidency spark criticism
April 14, 2013
Massoud Barzani served 2 terms as president of
Kurdistan region of Iraq. Photo: Archive
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Kurdistan region 'Iraq',— Moves to clear the way
for Iraqi Kurdistan leader Massoud Barzani to serve
a third term have sparked criticism in a region that
touts itself as a democratic haven in an unstable
Much-delayed elections in the autonomous region in
Iraq's north are due before September 8, and voters
are set to cast their ballots in provincial,
parliamentary and presidential races.
In the last of those, Barzani and his dominant
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are looking to
bypass what his opponents say are clear legal
hurdles to another term in office.
"We are against extending Barzani's time in office,
and we are against him being able to run for a third
term," said Yusuf Mohammed, a senior leader in Gorran,
the main opposition party in the region.
Barzani's KDP and the smaller Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK), headed by ailing Iraqi President
Jalal Talabani, have largely held a duopoly in
Kurdish politics and have even run on a joint slate
in recent elections.
Together, the two parties hold a majority of seats
in Kurdistan's 111-seat regional parliament.
Barzani, the son of revered Kurdish nationalist
leader and KDP founder Mulla Mustafa Barzani, has
enjoyed tremendous popularity in the region, winning
69.6 percent of votes in the most recent
presidential election in 2009.
Born in 1946 in Mahabad, capital of the short-lived
Kurdish republic declared by his father during
Iran's post-war unrest,www.ekurd.net
Barzani joined the fight for an independent
Kurdistan as a teenager.
He took over the leadership of the KDP from his
father in 1979 and has held the position ever since.
But his efforts to win a third term in office -- he
was initially appointed by Kurdish MPs in 2005, and
re-elected four years later -- have not met with
The dispute centres around the rules regulating how
long one person can serve as president.
Opponents of Barzani and the KDP -- principally
Gorran, but also the region's Islamic and Communist
parties and some PUK supporters -- argue that he has
served two full terms, and has completed the maximum
"Nominating Barzani for a third term is illegal, he
has no right to run," said Goran Azad, one of the
few PUK members of the Kurdish parliament opposed to
Barzani running again.
His supporters, however, say that because the first
term was not the result of a popular election, he
has one more left.
The KDP is currently looking at the legal issues
around Barzani standing for another term, party
spokesman Jaafar Aiminki said.
KDP foreign relations chief Hayman Hawrami added
that the party would take "constitutional and legal
means, and deliberate with other political parties
in Kurdistan, regarding this subject."
Made up of three provinces -- Erbil, where the
eponymous regional capital lies, Sulaimaniyah (Slêmanî)
and Duhok -- the region controls most of its
internal affairs and has sought to lessen its
economic dependency on the central government.
Kurdistan is held up as a paradigm of economic
growth and stability in a country still beset by
deadly violence and chronic political crises, but
critics say its two main parties blur the lines
between state office and their own party
bureaucracies, fostering nepotism and corruption.
In February, Human Rights Watch accused Kurdish
authorities of stifling free speech and detaining
journalists, activists and political opponents
"The nature of authority in the (Kurdistan) region
comes close to that of a dictatorship, and does not
give any importance to the demands of citizens,"
said Salahedden Bahaddin, a former leader of the
Kurdistan Islamic Union.
"If he does not step back (from the proposals)...
the same fate of the dictatorships in the region
awaits him," Bahaddin said, a reference to Arab
Spring uprisings that unseated strongmen in Egypt,
Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.
Some among the region's independent press have also
voiced opposition to the plans.
"Putting Barzani forward for another term is not
democratic," said Ahmed Mira, editor-in-chief of the
"Nominating him again will be a step back for the
region, and make it closed, like a dictatorship."
Massoud Barzani and his relatives allegedly control a
large number of commercial enterprises in
Kurdistan-Iraq, with a gross value of several
billion US dollars. The family is routinely accused
of corruption and nepotism by Kurdish media as well
as international observers.
Since February 2011, till middle April 2011,
thousands of protesters
in Sulaimaniyah and other parts of Kurdistan against
corruption and the lording over Kurdistan region by
two main parties KDP and PUK. Kurdish
protestors demand the ouster of the local Kurdistan
government KRG, calling for improving services and
living conditions and fighting corruption.
Most of the demonstrators opposed Massoud Barzani, and the ruling
Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP. Ten people
killed and more than 700 others wounded and 220
more have been arrested in clashes between
demonstrators and Kurdish security forces during a
wave or protests that swept Sulaimaniyah. The
Kurdish security forces (Asayish) arrested and
tortured a lot of activists and
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