KDP-PUK politburo meeting
KDP-PUK politburo meeting

Live: More KDP-PUK meetings as election hopes falter

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We've often written about how the speakership is structured so two deputies can outvote the speaker.

Here's a passage from Nova Daban's article from a few weeks ago, which appears eerily prescient now:

The PUK intends to amend the election law to reestablish a balance of power with their rival coalition partner, KDP. Despite both parties being part of the KRG, the KDP holds the presidency and dominates the cabinet. The PUK theoretically leads parliament via Speaker Rewaz Faeq, but the KDP’s astute legislative engineering has diminished her power: The speakership also includes a deputy and a secretary. The deputy is the KDP’s Hemn Hawrami. The secretary is Muna Kahveci, a Turkmen politician allied to the KDP. The pair can outvote Faeq, ostensibly their boss, on parliamentary process.

Below is the order paper for Monday's session adding a debate on the reactivation of the electoral commission. Present are the signatures of deputy speakers Muna Kahveci and Hemn Hawrami. Conspicuously absent is the signature of the speaker herself, Rewaz Faeq.
Order paper – sans the Speaker's signature 
Order paper – sans the Speaker's signature    credit: Parliament website
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Following statements by PUK and Gorran members condemning what has been described as a "unilateral move by the KDP" to add the reactivation of the region's electoral commission to the agenda of tomorrow's parliamentary session, Shaswar Abdulwahid, leader of the New Generation Movement, joins in. He characterizes what's happening as a "KDP decision to reactivate the Election Commission while excluding the New Generation Movement, despite our rightful entitlement to two members, which demonstrates their disregard for any party's perspective."

Appointments to the Kurdistan electoral commission are political, and they're distributed across party lines proportionally to their performance in elections -- parties with more seats are able to appoint more members to the commission. Due to political paralysis and disagreements, the commission's mandate has not been renewed for more than three years, and the distribution of its members reflects the results of the 2013 election.

As a relative newcomer to the scene, the New Generation Movement was only established in 2017, and thus, has no representation in the commission. If the KDP's efforts to "reactivate" the commission in its current form are successful, it would rob the New Generation Movement of the ability to appoint any members to the commission.

Here's the full statement from Shaswar Abdulwahid:

PUK MPs: This is a dangerous move

Luqman Wardi, a PUK MP in the Kurdistan Parliament, has expressed disquiet regarding the KDP's attempt to reactivate the electoral commission. He characterized this initiative as 'dangerous'.

Wardi asserts that the KDP's addition of an agenda item to the forthcoming parliamentary meeting infringes upon internal parliamentary procedures, which mandate a 24-hour notice period for new items. This action, he contends, undermines unity and previous agreements on electoral reforms and the reactivation of the commission.

He emphasized that the agreed-upon process was to first revise the Electoral Law prior to making decisions on the Commission. Wardi warns that this unilateral move could disrupt national unity and take advantage of minority groups in the region.

The PUK MP also reproached the Secretary of the Kurdistan Parliament for endorsing the amendment without the Speaker of Parliament's knowledge, alleging it was a manipulative maneuver by the KDP.

Notably, the amendment for the meeting bore the signatures of only the Deputy Speaker and Secretary of Parliament, with the Speaker of Parliament's approval conspicuously absent.

A PUK MP who wished to remain anonymous told NRT English that the parliamentary party will have a meeting later tonight, branding the move an attack on the Speaker's authority. "The Speaker should be able to wield their powers without being undermined by deputies working in cahoots. But this is Kurdistan."
The "point-to-point" speed enforcement cameras, also known as average speed cameras, are set to commence a testing phase in Sulaymaniyah today. These cameras calculate the average speed of a vehicle over a distance, rather than its instantaneous speed at a single point, with full operations commencing in a week. 

The system, owned and operated by a private firm, has stirred significant controversy in the city. Citizens have expressed their discontent with what they perceive as exorbitant speeding fines. 

Many also voice suspicions about a potential link between the company controlling the cameras and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the ruling party in the region.

In the face of allegations of corruption and impropriety, the Sulaymaniyah Police spokesperson offered a tongue-in-cheek response: "Avoid hitting the speed limit so the company goes bankrupt."
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani convened a meeting with both the outgoing and the incoming commanders of NATO forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Giovanni M. Iannucci and Lieutenant General José Antonio Agüero Martínez, respectively, in Baghdad. 

According to a statement released by the PM's Media Office, the discussions centered around "Iraq's cooperation with NATO countries in advising and training the Iraqi security forces."


Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al-Sudani, received today, Sunday, the new Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission in Iraq, Lieutenant General José Antonio Agüero Martínez.

His Excellency bid farewell to the former Commander of NATO Mission, Lieutenant General Giovanni M. Iannucci, after the end of his duties in Iraq, in the presence of the Deputy Commander of Joint Operations, Advisor to the Minister of Defense, and Military Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
During the meeting, they discussed Iraq's cooperation with NATO countries in advising and training the Iraqi security forces.

The Prime Minister commended the former NATO mission commander for his role in Iraq and extended well wishes for his future endeavors. Additionally, the Prime Minister warmly welcomed the new NATO mission commander, underscoring the significance of enhancing the performance and capabilities of the security services to tackle security challenges, which constitutes a vital government priority in managing the security sector.

The former NATO mission commander expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister for his support and affirmed the continuation of the cooperation program with Iraq under the leadership of the new commander.
Al-Monitor has released a report examining the consequences of the closure of the Fishkhabour-Semalka border crossing, the sole border crossing connecting Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria.
The sudden shutdown has led to significant disruptions in trade, travel, diplomatic visits, and the operations of humanitarian organizations.The closure has directly affected an estimated three million individuals residing in the areas of northeast Syria controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The cessation of cross-border activity has negatively impacted the local economy, humanitarian efforts, and has imposed personal hardships on residents.The crossing has been recognized as a critical conduit for supplies, with dozens of trucks arriving daily with goods destined for the northeastern Syrian markets.

However, ongoing political disputes between the AANES and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have resulted in periodic closures of this crossing in recent years.The closing also necessitates alternative routes for access to northeast Syria for humanitarian organizations, journalists, and political delegations that do not cooperate with the Syrian regime. 

Additionally, the situation has posed significant challenges for medical patients seeking treatment outside the region, and for NGOs operating within it.

The reopening of the border depends on the resolution of ongoing political tensions.

For more details on this situation, read the full Al-Monitor report below:

In a statement to Draw Media, Yassin Hama-Ali, the head of Gorran's Election Team, alleged that the addition of "the reactivation of the electoral commission" to tomorrow's Parliamentary agenda was carried out without PUK's consent.

He also clarified Gorran's stance on the recent developments, rejecting the idea of adding the reactivation of the electoral commission to the agenda without addressing reforms to the election law. 

He further elaborated:

"Gorran regards the reactivation of the electoral commission and amendments to election law as issues with 'national' dimensions, which should only be resolved through mutual agreements among political parties. Additionally, we view both issues as inseparable and believe they should be decided upon simultaneously.

Regarding minority representation, we believe it is crucial for them to have genuine representation. This is why they should have their own voter registration and polling stations. 

On other matters, some understanding [between political parties] exists, and disputes over [dividing Kurdistan into four] constituencies and biometric voter registration have been settled."
In unrelated (?) news, a high-ranking KDP delegation headed by Fazil Mirani paid a visit to Gorran's office in Erbil today.

A brief readout from Gorran's official Facebook page states "several issues related to the situation in the Kurdistan region were discussed".

Fair enough.

Things seem to be moving pretty fast now

K24 reports that the Deputy Speaker and the Secretary are currently in an unscheduled meeting with delegates from foreign consulates and international envoys.
The primary topic on the agenda is the "Parliamentary elections and the reactivation of the High Election and Referendum Commission."

Again, the speaker herself, boss of Secretary Kahveci and Deputy Speaker Hawrami, is absent from what appears to be a critical meeting.
Following the KDP's press conference, Kurdistan's parliament announced the addition of an extra item to the agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session: the reactivation of the electoral commission for a five-year term and a vote on the commission's candidates. 

Interestingly, the announcement from the parliamentary speakership (led by the PUK's Rewaz Faiq) does not mention the KDP MPs' second request to hold a "first reading of proposed reforms to the region’s election law."

While the reactivation of the Electoral Commission has ceased to be a bone of contention between the KDP and the PUK, disagreements persist on the proposed election law reforms.

This divergence likely played a role in Parliament's decision-making process.
The KDP and PUK politburos jointly expressed optimism in a readout from their bilateral meeting today, but concurrent antics in parliament suggest a more complicated narrative.

According to their combined statement, the parties have achieved a mutual understanding on most topics, but a handful of matters still need further dialogue. These issues will be tackled in future meetings.

This statement was issued minutes after a surprise press conference in which KDP MPs directly appealed to the Speaker of Parliament.

They requested a discussion on reactivating the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (KIHERC) in the upcoming session, along with an initial review of proposed reforms to the regional election law.

Further emphasizing their stance, the KDP bloc repeated the party's earlier position on minority quotas, seemingly ignoring PUK calls for reform.

Minutes before disaster

The head of PUK's Parliamentary team told Rudaw, "A good understanding has now been reached [between KDP and the PUK], and talks continue at the party level." He continued, "[Both sides should] continue to meet to overcome current points of disagreement."

Just one hour later, KDP MPs unilaterally held an impromptu press conference in an attempt to force through a vote on the KIHERC and reforms to election law tomorrow.
Presser by KDP MPs in parliament today
Presser by KDP MPs in parliament today  
In an impromptu press conference, KDP MPs directly called on the Speaker of Parliament to add two items to tomorrow's Parliamentary session:

  1. A vote to reactivate the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (KIHERC)
  2. The first reading of proposed reforms to the region’s election law.

They also stressed and reiterated the KDP's previous stance on minority quotas.

This press conference occurred just as the KDP and PUK politburos met in Pirmam to discuss these issues and reach an agreement on the election law.

It is unclear whether this press conference was held in coordination with the KDP politburo.

There has been no reaction from the PUK as of now. It appears to be a legislative ambush by the KDP.
credit: Hasan Albari
Today, we celebrate International Tea Day!
International Tea Day, celebrated annually on May 21st, honors the world's most popular beverage, tea. Believed to have originated in China over 5,000 years ago, tea is now enjoyed by people globally.
This special day promotes and raises awareness about the importance of tea and its cultural significance. It's a time when tea enthusiasts and tea-producing countries unite to appreciate the diverse flavors, traditions, and health benefits associated with this magical elixir.

One tea that holds a special place is the Kurdish tea, known as "Chai Kurdi" in the local language. It plays a crucial role in their social gatherings and hospitality.
The preparation of Kurdish tea is an art form in itself. Black tea leaves, typically imported from neighboring countries, are steeped in a Samovar—a traditional teapot with two chambers. The lower chamber holds boiling water, while the upper chamber contains the tea leaves. As the water boils, the steam rises, infusing the leaves and creating a strong, aromatic brew.

Kurdish tea is usually served in small, tulip-shaped glasses that showcase its vibrant color and aroma.

In Kurdish culture, tea is much more than a beverage; it is a symbol of unity and connection. It brings families, friends, and even strangers together, fostering conversations and nurturing relationships.
More reaction from the visit of Nashville Mayor John Cooper to Erbil by the KRG's representative in the USA, Bayan Sami Rahman.
The National News, citing a provincial official, reports that four security officers were lightly injured in yesterday's clashes in Makhmour when "residents started to throw stones."

As we reported yesterday, residents speaking to NRT Kurdish accused Iraqi forces of opening fire, claiming seven individuals were injured.

NRT English has been able to independently verify injuries among the camp residents.
A "high-ranking" delegation from Nashville is currently visiting Erbil to further efforts in establishing a Sister City relationship between the two places. This follows a similar visit made by a delegation from Erbil to the US city last year. 

Nashville, Tennessee is home to the largest Kurdish community in the United States and is often dubbed "Little Kurdistan" by Kurdish media. If efforts are successful, Erbil will become Nashville's first Sister City in the Middle East.

Disputes over federal budget at committee stage

When first unveiled in March, the Iraqi draft budget law was hailed by all major political parties of the ruling "State Administration Coalition" as a significant achievement, key to resolving long-standing disputes between members of the diverse political coalition. Since then, however, rifts between the Kurds and the Shiites, as well as intra-Shiite disputes, have come to the forefront, repeatedly delaying the passage of the budget law.

Yesterday, Rudaw reported that the Parliamentary Financial Committee has reached a consensus on "90% of the draft budget law," with Kurdistan's share of the budget being the only sticking point. Rudaw claims Shiite members of the committee aim to modify article 12 of the draft law, compelling Kurdistan to hand over all its oil and non-oil revenues before receiving its share of the budget.

Initially, the draft law mandated Kurdistan to export 400,000 barrels of oil a day, with its revenues directed to an account monitored by the Iraqi government. Alongside half of the region's non-oil revenues, these were the requirements outlined for the KRI to receive its share of the budget.

However, the ICC International Court of Arbitration ruling, which deemed Kurdistan's independent oil exports unlawful, rendered one of the primary clauses of the draft budget law moot. This development sparked a heated debate in Baghdad as Kurdish MPs sought to renegotiate a new deal. Despite an agreement on paper between KRG PM Masrour Barzani and Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani meant to settle the issue, ongoing disagreements among members of the Parliamentary Financial Committee continue to hinder efforts to pass the budget.

Happy Sunday! Here's the morning briefing.

  • Currently, the PUK and KDP politburos are in a meeting in Pirmam, Erbil. According to local media reports, the main topics of discussion are election laws and potential changes to key government positions.
  • This week, local authorities across several provinces in Iraq began receiving wheat from farmers. Each year, the government purchases substantial quantities of wheat from farmers at subsidized rates. This initiative aims to support the country's beleaguered agricultural sector.

Stay tuned as we continue to keep you updated on all the latest developments in Kurdistan and Iraq!