Iraqi Kurdistan enters 'legal vacuum' as leader's term expires

Iraqi Kurdistan enters 'legal vacuum' as leader's term expires
President Massud Barzani's term expired on Thursday, adding another issue to the autonomous region's litany of crises.
2 min read
21 August, 2015
Massud Barzani has been in office for 10 years [Anadolu]
Iraqi Kurdistan President Massud Barzani's extended term expired on Thursday, leaving the autonomous region in a "legal vacuum" that Kurdish political parties are still trying to resolve.

The leadership dispute comes as Kurdistan faces a multitude of crises: the war against the Islamic State group (IS), major financial problems and a Turkish bombing campaign targeting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside the Kurdish region.

"The region has entered a legal vacuum, and this is why we must address this issue," said Barzo Majid, from the regional parliament's Goran bloc, one of the main parties in the region.

If political parties cannot agree on a solution, the parliamentary speaker should "take up the position of the president of the region for a period of two months until elections are held", Majid said.

Barzani's ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is against that proposal, and is pushing for his term to be extended for a second time.

Kurdish parties met for talks on the issue Thursday, and "there will be other meetings tomorrow", said Saadi Ahmed Bira, a leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, another key Kurdish party, who did not provide details of the outcome of the Thursday meeting.

Barzani, 69, is the son of the revered Kurdish nationalist leader and KDP founder Mulla Mustafa Barzani and has been in office for 10 years - two terms as president followed by a two-year extension in 2013.

His family has long been the dominant force in Kurdish politics, holding various top positions in the regional government.

Iraqi Kurdistan has its own government, security forces, borders and flag.

It is still dependent on Iraq's federal government for funds, but complains that Baghdad has either paid it less than its share of the budget, or not at all, and the region is independently exporting oil to boost its revenues.