Iraq’s embattled Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani is facing mounting pressure to quit. Kurdish officials say his presidency won’t be extended and his powers are to be “redistributed.”
The parliament of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan said a letter from the 71-year-old Barzani, reportedly including a plan to divide up his powers, would be read out when the assembly convened on Sunday.
One Kurdish source quoted by the German news agency DPA claimed that Barzani, who has run the region since 2005, would not seek re-election. His current term is due to expire next Wednesday.
Parliament's deputy head, Jaffar Eminki, declined to disclose the letter's content.
A power redistribution plan was outlined in the letter, according to a Kurdish government official cited by Reuters.
Kurdish member of parliament Iden Maarouf told the French news agency AFP that parliament would meet on Sunday to see how best to "redistribute the president's powers” among the legislative, executive and judicial authorities.
Referendum and setbacks
Nearly two weeks ago, federal Iraqi forces seized back the oil hub Kirkuk – from which Kurds had evicted Islamic State (IS) militants in 2014 – following a Kurdish independence referendum promulgated by Barzani that drew an overwhelming "yes” vote.
The Kurds' loss of Kirkuk's resources fueled recriminations from detractors in the regional capital Irbil and prompted the reconvened Kurdish parliament last Tuesday to offer Baghdad postponement of elections.
Those polls had been earmarked for November 1 but preparations fell apart as Baghdad retook the Kirkuk area, territory outside core Kurdistan.
Gorran movement opposition
Iraqi Kurdistan's main opposition party, the Gorran movement, previously shuttered from parliament by Barzani, has openly called for the departure of the former Peshmerga fighter.
The region last held a presidential election in 2009, which Barzani won. His term of office expired in 2013 and was extended twice.
Upping the pressure on Thursday, Iraqi President Abadi demanded that the Kurds declare their referendum void.
Kirkuk province is not recognized as a part of the Kurdish region's autonomous zone which was created under the 2005 Iraqi Constitution in the wake of the topping of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 2003 US-led invasion.
Iraq suspended military operations
On Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered a 24-hour suspension to military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.
He said Baghdad wanted federal forces to take control of border crossings in "all disputed areas,” including Fish-Khabur, where an oil pipeline crosses into Turkey.
Irbil's once-humming airport has remained idle since Baghdad forbade international flights to the Kurdish region, also to persuade Kurds to disavow the referendum result.
On Thursday, Iraqi forces launched an offensive to recapture the last patch of Iraqi territory still in the hands of IS militants, in Anbar province on the border with Syria.
ipj/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP)