Main Kurdish parties yet to decide on Iraq president candidate as deadline nears

Main Kurdish parties yet to decide on Iraq president candidate as deadline nears
The main Iraqi Kurdish parties have until 24 January to agree on a candidate for president of Iraq, according to the country's constitution.
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Barham Salih became President of Iraq in 2018 [Getty]

Iraq's two leading Kurdish parties have yet to decide on a candidate for the country's president, more than a week since parliament's first session convened following the October elections.

According to the Iraqi constitution, parliament must vote on a president 15 days after a parliament speaker is chosen. Mohammed Al-Halbousi was re-elected as speaker on 9 January.

Under Iraq's informal muhasasa power-sharing system, Iraq's president should be an ethnic Kurd, the prime minister a Shia and the speaker of parliament a Sunni.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) wants the term of Barham Salih, president since 2018, to be renewed.

But the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the oldest and largest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, last week nominated veteran politician Hoshyar Zebari for president. Zebari has previously held senior roles in the Iraqi government, including deputy prime minister and finance minister.

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Kurdish political sources told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that KDP leader Masoud Barzani believes that the presidential candidate should come from within his party, as it won 31 seats in last year's parliamentary election compared to the PUK's 17 seats.

Vian Dakhil, spokeswoman for the KDP bloc in the Iraqi parliament, told state media on Monday that her party was "very keen for the Kurds to go to Baghdad united".

But Barzani has categorically rejected Barham Salih as choice for president, the sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, and the party will only negotiate with the PUK if it puts a different candidate forward. The KDP also rejected Salih as candidate for president in 2018.

The PUK has said that Salih is its only candidate for the role.

Iraqis went to the polls in October to elect new members of parliament.

The results were only ratified at the end of December, and talks between rival parliamentary blocs on government formation continue.