Iraq's top court adjourns until March ruling on Kurdistan region's parliament extension

Iraq's top court adjourns until March ruling on Kurdistan region's parliament extension
Iraq's top court postponed making its decision on the "constitutionality" of extending the Kurdistan region's parliament until next month. 
3 min read
08 February, 2023
Iraqi judge Jassim Mohammad Abud, president of the Federal Court, attends a court session on the constitutionality of the first parliamentary session at the Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad on 25 January 2022. [Getty]

Iraq's Federal Supreme Court on Tuesday held an open hearing on the "constitutionality" regarding the extension of the Iraqi Kurdistan region's parliament, government and presidency to December, but adjourned ruling out for the case to 15 March.

The Kurdistan parliament of the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq unanimously passed Law 12 of 2022 on 9 October which extended the mandates of the parliament, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdistan region's presidency until late 2023. 

The former speaker of the Iraqi Kurdistan region parliament, Yousuf Mohammed Sadiq, the president of the New Generation Movement (NGM) opposition party Shaswar Abulwahid, NGM's lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament Sirwa Abdulwahid and NGM's MP in the Kurdish assembly Kawa Abdulqadir have raised separate legal cases against the speaker of the Kurdistan region's parliament, Rewaz Fayaq, and the president of Kurdistan region Nechirvan Barzani.

The plaintiffs argue that the extensions are contrary to articles five and twenty of the Iraqi constitution, the principles of democracy and holding fair elections every four years according to Article 51 of the Kurdistan region's election Law 1 of 1992. Hence, they asked the court to revoke Law 12 of 2022 and oblige the Kurdish authorities to hold a general election soon.

On 31 January, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court adjourned another hearing because the representatives of the defendants did not attend the session.

Sadiq told The New Arab that the court has adjourned the hearing to 15 March.

Yesterday's hearing was open to the media and was broadcasted live from the state-run al-Iraqiya satellite channel. 

During the session, the plaintiffs reaffirmed claims that the extension was contrary to the principles of peaceful handover of power enshrined in the Iraqi constitution and the bylaw of the Kurdistan parliament, which stipulates that parliament's mandate was limited to four years. 

The extension of the Kurdistan parliament's mandate violates articles of the Iraqi constitution, and it is a dangerous initiative that Iraq's top court should revoke it, otherwise in the future, the extension would be used as a pretext for the Iraqi parliament to illegally extend its mandate too, Sadiq argued to the court. 

The representatives of the defendants, however, urged the court to reject the claims by the plaintiffs, arguing that the Kurdistan parliament extended its mandate according to "legal and practical bases", and to prevent the region from entering a "constitutional vacuum" after general elections were stalled as the various Kurdish parties could not settle their differences on the region's elections law and the electoral commission.  

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The two ruling Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), backed by several lawmakers from the ruling Change Movement, the minorities and other smaller parties extended the Kurdish parliament's term after a general election scheduled for 1 October was postponed. 

The delay was due to disagreements among the region's major political parties on vital issues such as amendments to the election law, appointments for the region's electoral commission and how minorities are represented.  

The Kurdistan region held its last general elections in September 2018.  The election witnessed a low turnout of 57% and was marred by alleged widespread voter fraud by KDP and PUK. After the elections, the parliament voted to trust the KRG ninth cabinet headed by PM Masrour Barzani from the KDP and then elected Nechirvan Barzani, also from the KDP, as the region's president.

The White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, recently visited the region and reportedly urged the Kurdish authorities to deal with their internal issues and quickly hold fresh general elections.

The Kurdistan Parliament and the three ruling parties previously claimed that they wanted to use the extension to discuss a draft for a long-sought constitution for the region.

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