Live: Mass brawl in Kurdistan Parliament

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The KDP Political Bureau has just released a comprehensive statement in the aftermath of today's tumultuous parliamentary session.

Here's a précis: 

As we approach the elections scheduled for November 18, 2023, with less than six months remaining, the KDP emphasizes the need for all political parties to take substantive steps, not just engage in discussion, for the successful execution of these elections.

In this regard, the KDP proposes the following:

1. The Kurdistan Parliament should fulfill its legal obligation to amend the electoral law. All bills submitted by our party, along with those from other parties, should be placed on the agenda for first reading and classified as urgent. 
The consensus of the electoral officials of the political parties on the four constituencies, biometric registration, the use of Iraqi statistics, and the desire of minority communities for their own registration should serve as the foundation for the joint report of the factions. This would enable the second reading of the bill and voting to be conducted as soon as possible.

2. We urge representatives of all nations and UNAMI to cooperate in this process and to consider the stance of our party. We would also like to inform any parties creating obstacles to these steps of their anti-democratic and anti-election positions.

3. We call on all political parties and parliamentary factions to lend their support and assistance to the success of this democratic process.

4. We extend our gratitude for the efforts and position of the KDP faction in the Kurdistan Parliament, the presidency, and other factions who voted and reactivated the Independent Election Commission in today's session, May 22, 2023.

5. We mandate our KDP faction in the Kurdistan Parliament to continue fulfilling their parliamentary duties in coordination and cooperation with other factions within the parliament.

Former PUK Intelligence Chief Returns to Sulaymaniyah

Azhi Amin, former chief of the PUK intelligence agency (Zanyari), has returned to Sulaymaniyah following a year-long stay in Erbil. It is anticipated that Amin will meet with Bafel Jalal Talabani, Secretary of the PUK, and Qubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister.

Amin took on the role of Chief of Zanyari on July 8, 2021, succeeding Muhammad Tahsin Talabani in a quick security shift that Lahur Talabani termed as a coup against him.

However, approximately eight months later, in early 2022, Amin was removed by Bafel and replaced by the current Chief of Intelligence, Jalal Sheikh Naji.

On October 24, 2022, security forces seized Azhi Amin's residences in Sulaymaniyah. A press secretary for Amin informed Rudaw that Amin had returned to visit his mother in Sulaymaniyah, not to rejoin the PUK.

According to Rudaw, Amin is set to meet with Bafel Talabani and Qubad Talabani, both of whom are expected to apologize to Amin's mother for the house attack that took place amid the tensions of the past year.

Over the past year, Amin resided in Erbil and held a position as an Associate Advisor for the Kurdistan Security Council.

Read more about the intra-PUK tensions previously reported by NRT English.
Some observers suspect the rush today is in fear of a court verdict bringing the Iraqi electoral commission back into the fold for Kurdistani elections. 
Kurdistan's parliament voted in a contentious bill to establish its own electoral commission nearly a decade ago, superseding the federal Iraqi commission for local ballots and referenda.

This spells concern for the KDP:

The Iraqi Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) has informed the Federal Court that it holds the authority to resolve disputes between political parties stemming from the preparation and implementation of elections in the Kurdistan Region. 

"IHEC possesses the exclusive authority to resolve disputes arising from the preparation and implementation of national elections, whether at the regional or provincial level," according to a ruling issued on Monday.

The letter suggests that IHEC holds the authority to intervene and oversee the upcoming November elections, given the inability of the Kurdistan Region political parties to agree on the election's details. 

The ruling is signed by Judge Omar Ahmad, the head of the IHEC, who is reportedly close to the PUK.
Fact-checking the KDP's claim that a vote took place in today's parliamentary sitting

Well, it was more like a parliamentary standing. Seats weren't occupied for long. 

Despite the KDP faction in the Kurdistan Parliament insisting that a vote occurred today to renew the mandate of the Kurdistan Region's electoral commission, no supporting evidence has been found. 

The claim has been circulated by KDP-affiliated media outlets such as Kurdistan 24 and Bas News (which have close ties to KRG PM Masrour Barzani). However, other media outlets, including Rudaw (linked to President Nechirvan Barzani), all PUK-affiliated websites, and other Sulaimaniyah-based outlets, either deny that the vote took place or suggest that it wasn't as clear-cut as the KDP describes it.

NRT Kurdish reporter Hersh Qadir attempted to find any evidence of a vote being held but came up short. KDP MPs declined to provide anything, merely reiterating that the vote has supposedly taken place. Yet, no documentation has been produced to back up this assertion.

Furthermore, the Parliament website's live stream shows a chaotic scene with MPs clustered around the speaker's position (who had earlier left after adjourning the session), and some MPs raising their hands. The audio has been intermittently muted.

The video displays Deputy Speaker Hemin Hawrami (KDP) holding documents (presumably the schedule of the day's session, which lacked the Speaker's signature and assent) and trying to initiate a vote. This was after Speaker Rewaz Faiq exercised her authority to end the session (and after Hawrami's "fists-on-desk" rebellion against his boss).
The audio briefly resumes as some MPs raise their hands while others shout "adjourned, adjourned," referencing the Speaker's earlier decision to postpone the session.

Strategically, the live stream concludes shortly after. The ensuing brawl has been widely reported today.

Based on a review of the footage and discussions with other MPs, there is no evidence to suggest that a legitimate vote was held. 

A chaotic show of hands by a hodgepodge group of friendly MPs surrounding the speaker's position after the session was adjourned doesn't count as a legitimate vote, regardless of how the KDP spins it.
What appears to be the
What appears to be the "vote" KDP figures claim were carried out legitimately in parliament today  
According to Bwar News, the leader of the Turkmen Front faction in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Parliament did not cast a vote for the reactivation of the commission. 

"Issues of national importance must be voted on by consensus and compromise," he stated.

"The Turkmen Front faction did not vote for the reactivation of the Kurdistan Regional Election Commission," Sabah confirmed.

I ❤️ Akre

The Prime Minister appears unfazed by the turmoil in his region's legislature. He's seen here posing before the "I ❤️ Akre" sign during a day trip to the town renowned for its Newroz celebrations. 

And we do, too. We love Akre, too.
PUK Media is referencing another article of the parliament's Rule of Procedure of 2018 regarding the powers of the deputy speaker Hemn Hawrami: Article 19 which says that the deputy can only start a new parliamentary session when the speaker is not present.

Here is the passage in full:

Article 19:

The Powers of the Speaker’s First Deputy shall be the following:

First: Exercise all the powers of the Speaker in his absence.

Second: Assist the Speaker in the performance of his duties.

Third: Supervise and follow up on the work performed by the committees and report to the Speaker in that regard.

Fourth: Preside over the joint meetings of the standing committees.

Fifth: Participate in the Presidency Board’s activities, as he is one of its members.

Sixth: Exercise any other powers delegated to him by the Speaker or the applicable laws.
Here is what Barzani said on so-called "vote" in parliament  to renew mandate of the electoral commission

I congratulate the parliament for this important decision, because the legitimacy of the Kurdistan Region was really questioned by our friends at home and abroad, whether the Kurdish people believe in democracy and the electoral process or not. Nothing should prevent elections from being held.

This decision issued was a confirmation to the Kurdish people that they believe in the democratic process and elections and I hope that these elections will be held on time at the end of this year.

KRG PM Masrour Barzani

KRG PM Masrour Barzani welcomes the controversial decision to renew the electoral commission. This would certainly be detrimental to the KDP-PUK relations.
The PUK is increasingly frustrated that they do not have access to Kurdistan Parliament website's backend despite controlling the position of the Speaker.
Guess who controls access to the parliament's website! Spoiler alert: it's not the Speaker's people. 

We have witnessed two separate statements regarding today's chaotic session in parliament: one from the Speaker, shared on her Twitter, asserting that the session was postponed based on the powers vested in her.

She stands correct, as the parliament's internal regulations indeed grant her such authority.

Meanwhile, a different statement was posted on the Kurdistan Parliament's website. Notably, the KDP controls the access to publish on this platform.

Here's what the statement says:

Today, on Monday, May 22, 2023, Dr. Rewaz Faeq, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, chaired ordinary session number (4) of the fifth spring session of the fifth session of parliamentary elections. Present at the session were Dr. Hemn Hawrami, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, and Muna Nabi Qahwachi, Secretary of Parliament.

To start with, Dr. Rewaz Faeq, the Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, invoked the name of God and the Kurdish people to adjourn the session for a later time.

Subsequently, Dr. Hemn Hawrami, the Deputy Speaker, presided over the session, voting to continue. Based on another vote, he rearranged the session's agenda. Consequently, according to the first point on the agenda, Dr. Hemn Hawrami approved the reactivation of the commissioners' council by 58 votes. Following this, the names of Mr. Ali Salih Mahmoud and Kamran Nashat Bakr were proposed as two candidates for the council's membership. Both candidates were approved by 58 votes, marking the end of the session.
Nothing to see here

As noted by Winthrop Rodgers, the PM and DPM seem blissfully unaware of the chaos ensuing between their two parties' MPs in parliament
Here's the full statement by the PM's office on what they're trying very hard to paint as business as usual.

Today, on May 22nd, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a meeting on the reorganization of the Kurdistan Region's public finances, with Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani in attendance. 

The meeting discussed last week's Council of Ministers decision, which unanimously approved a comprehensive reorganization of public finances throughout the Kurdistan Region. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister were tasked with urgently determining the mechanism for implementing this decision.

Subsequently, the meeting focused on devising a mechanism to regulate public revenues and expenditures throughout the region. It was emphasized that salary provisions should be treated as sovereign expenditures and prioritized by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). All other public expenditures should be distributed fairly and based on population across provinces and autonomous administrations. To this end, the meeting resolved to consolidate all regional revenue sources into one bank account and to end proportional distribution.

The meeting also decided to swiftly implement an electronic system to link the region's banks and treasuries. This move aims to safeguard public revenue and enhance transparency in revenue and expenditure, helping to balance the two.

In this context, Prime Minister Barzani mentioned that, with the assistance of local and foreign experts, efforts are underway to establish an advanced and modern financial and banking system in the Kurdistan Region.

Another point of discussion was the Kurdistan Region's financial rights and entitlements in the Iraqi budget bill, currently under review by the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives. The meeting acknowledged the KRG's stance in compliance with the April 4th oil agreement and other budget bill articles.

Gratitude was expressed for those who contributed to the budget bill's amendments, specifically those that eliminated phrases that hindered the transfer of the Kurdistan Region's budget share.

Members of the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives from the Kurdish factions were commended for their unanimous defense of the Kurdistan Region's constitutional rights, and for uniting efforts to secure the region's citizens' salaries and livelihoods from the Iraqi federal budget.

The meeting concluded with a call to the federal government and the main cabinet-forming parties. In accordance with the constitution, they are urged to honor agreements and ensure the rights of the Kurdistan Region, as they would for any other part of Iraq.
PUK stakes claim to parliamentary gavel
In the fallout from today's turbulence in the Kurdistan Parliament, an unexpected point of contention has arisen between the PUK and KDP factions: control over the parliamentary gavel, a symbol of authority in legislative proceedings.

During a press conference following the chaotic session, the PUK's Hawre Mala Star MP displayed what he claimed to be the "presidency gavel".

He stated that it was obtained after the Speaker of Parliament left the premises, implying that no other party should preside over the session in her absence.

However, the KDP disagreed, asserting they had the gavel in their possession and carried on with the parliamentary session accordingly.
Today's tension in the parliament comes on the cusp of the Iraqi Federal Court's impending ruling on the constitutionality of last year's postponement of Kurdistan's parliamentary elections.

The Federal Court had previously deferred a session intended to deliberate on the legality of delaying the elections and extending the existing parliament's tenure. The upcoming decision responds to complaints lodged by former Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Youssif Muhammed (Gorran) and Srwa Abdulwahid, the New Generation bloc's leader in Baghdad.

Judge Sheikh Latif, an authority on the Iraqi constitution, suggests that a potential consequence of the Federal Court declaring the extension of the parliament's term unconstitutional would be the invalidation of any laws passed since the day the extension started.

Furthermore, a crucial implication of the court's decision might be that the Iraqi Higher Election Commission, rather than the Kurdistan Region's commission, would oversee the elections.

This shift could potentially make it more challenging for irregularities and suspected fraud, particularly concerning the KDP and PUK, to occur.

Here is from Hemn Hawrami in English. The Deputy Speaker says that the mandate of the election commission has been approved in parliament. We have not seen any confirmation of the actual vote taking place yet.

Perhaps they're counting thrown water bottles as votes.


Lots of mentions of Article 18 today

Here's the full text from the parliamentary rulebook:

Article 18:
The Powers and Duties of the Speaker:

First: Represent the Parliament and speak on its behalf.

Second: Implement the law, the rules of procedure and the resolutions issued by the Parliament.

Third: Open, preside, end, postpone and set the dates of the parliament terms and sittings.

Fourth: Monitor and maintain the regularity of the debates and preserve the authority of the Parliament.

Fifth: Take the necessary measures to maintain the order and security inside the Parliament.

Sixth: Propose the issues that need to belecided upon by voting and declare the voting results.

Seventh: Represent the Parliament in national events and celebrations. The Speaker may however delegate one of his deputies for that purpose.

Eighth: Exercise all legal, administrative and financial duties related to the Parliament provided they do not constitute a violation of article 16 (6) of the present rules.

Head of PUK Bloc in Kurdistan Parliament: today's session illegal

The head of the PUK team in the Kurdistan Parliament, Ziyad Jabbar, has claimed that today's session contravened parliamentary bylaws.

He indicated that there was a calculated effort to hold an illegal session, but his team intervened to stop it.

In a press conference following the parliamentary tensions, Jabar clarified that the session was postponed per parliamentary rules and internal regulations. He referenced Article 18, which affords the parliament speaker the power to delay or end sessions.

Jabar pointed out a recurring theme where the PUK and KDP blocs almost reach agreements, only for the KDP to subvert them. He blamed the KDP for exploiting minority blocs within the parliament, accusing them of using these minorities to shift the power balance in the Kurdish Region.

Jabar also criticized the parliament secretary's role, suggesting the day's events would not have happened without Secretary Muna Kahveci's involvement. Kahveci is a Turkemen member of a party backed by the KDP.

He stressed the need to revise the election laws in the Kurdish Region and urged changes. A senior source from the PUK told Westga News that the PUK politburo is set to meet today to discuss the recent tensions in the Kurdistan Parliament.
Here's why the stakes are incredibly high for the PUK: conducting elections now could be devastating to the party, as it risks losing seats (mainly due to internal conflicts).

If the system for electing the 11 minority quota seats doesn't change, the KDP's dominance of parliament will almost certainly continue. Even today, the KDP would have been unable to force a vote on holding elections without the support of minority MPs that maintain the KDP's patronage.

The PUK is well aware that the KDP is steadily consolidating its power in the Kurdistan Region through its firm control over the KRG, the Kurdistan Region Presidency, and now parliament as well.

The PUK considers itself equal to the KDP in terms of real politik, despite winning far fewer votes and seats in parliament.

This belief stems from its control over finances and security in Sulaymaniyah and Halabja (with the KDP controlling these in Erbil and Duhok).

If elections proceed with the current setup, and considering that popular Lahur Talabany has been ousted from the party, the PUK is almost certain to lose seats and thus its influence over parliament will be further diminished.

Therefore, the PUK aims to amend the election law to restore a balance of power with its historic rival and coalition partner, the KDP.

And remember, as we mentioned earlier, while PUK's Speaker Rewaz Faiq technically presides over the parliament, the KDP’s savvy legislative maneuvers have curtailed her power. The deputy speaker is the KDP’s Hemin Hawrami, and the secretary is Muna Kahveci, a Turkmen politician allied with the KDP. This duo can outvote Faiq, ostensibly their superior, on parliamentary procedures.
Speaker Rewaz Faeq reiterating what she said during the session that her powers grant her the ability to end the session, thereby invalidating any votes that may have occurred.
Ari Harsin of the KDP tells Rudaw TV that dual administrations now exist in the Kurdistan Region. He says that there is no centralized finance or security force, and that the KDP's Interior Minister has no power in the Sulaymaniyah region. The Peshmerga forces are divided, and the same is true for all other ministries. He suggests one option could be to establish two separate regions, each with its own parliament and government.

But apart from all of that, it's not so bad?

The PUK's post-fight sing-a-long 

Here's a concise comparison of how KDP media outlets contrast with PUK media in their coverage.
PUK declares parliament 'dead', KDP claims successful vote

The PUK has labelled the current parliamentary session as "dead," asserting it can't be revived. PUK faction leader Ziad Jabar, who sustained minor injuries in a parliament scuffle, communicated to reporters that no vote was or can be conducted, as Speaker Reaz Faiq, also from the PUK, has the power to terminate sessions.

He stated that, based on Article 18 of the internal regulations of the parliament, the speaker has the authority to end sessions, and that is exactly what she did. End of story.

Contrarily, the KDP insists that a vote did take place, with 58 MPs voting in favor of reactivating the Electoral Commission.

It's likely the PUK will restart its boycott of the parliament and the KRG, in an attempt to pressure the KDP into a compromise. 
Here is the view from the Kurdistan Parliament's live stream earlier

Deputy speaker of parliament sets 'conditions' to his boss

The Deputy Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, Hemn Hawrami, declared a willingness to postpone today's parliamentary session until tomorrow, conditional upon the Speaker of Parliament approving the existing agenda.

In what can only be described as parliamentary blackmail towards his own boss.

In a press conference, Hawrami said that the current parliamentary term has been extended to facilitate preparations for the upcoming general elections, slated for November 18.

With less than six months to go, Hawrami underscored the importance of "improved understanding between political parties".

It's unclear how 'improved understanding' will be fostered between the two parties when the KDP tries to pass the election bill unilaterally with the help of minority quota MPs they hold significant sway over. The PUK has been demanding reform to minority quota seats as a prerequisite for endorsing elections. See our explainer here, with a passage below:

Criticism has intensified that these seats do not genuinely represent the minority groups, with most of them being won by proxy parties with the assistance of the ruling KDP party. The KDP-affiliated security forces have also been accused of tactical voting en masse for minority political parties founded by KDP members or with KDP financial assistance. This led to some highly unlikely results in previous elections where minority candidates in region without significant minority constituencies earned hundreds of votes in early voting (which is reserved for members of the region’s security forces).

He proposed the session's postponement, with the caveat that tomorrow's agenda remains intact. The agenda includes reactivating the Electoral Commission, a first reading of the election law, and government changes.

Yesterday, both Hawrami and Secretary of Parliament Kahveci made amendments to today's session agenda. These additions included the reactivation of the High Election and Referendum Commission. Notably, the amendments were authorized solely by the Deputy Speaker and Secretary, without the Speaker of Parliament's approval. See Nova Daban's piece here for more context on this procedural oddity:

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 Hemin Hawrami. The secretary is Muna Kahveci, a Turkmen politician allied to the KDP. The pair can outvote Faeq, ostensibly their boss, on parliamentary process.

Tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) members marked the beginning of today's session, with footage capturing the unfolding situation.

Despite the discord, the KDP pressed on with the session and voted on the proposed amendments and the reactivation of the Electoral Commission.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rewaz Faiq, has a quote for the ages in response to the crisis:

This parliamentary session has ended. It is now a corpse. The dead can not be resurrected.

Rewaz Faiq


Good morning

Chaos reigns as tensions escalate into a full-blown brawl in the Kurdistan Parliament.

The disorder broke out when the KDP attempted to ramn through proposals to reactivate the electoral commission.

This move has intensified an already brewing conflict over electoral reform, pushing the situation to a boiling point.

The PUK and the KDP have been at loggerheads for months over these reforms, which the KDP has shown reluctance to adopt. 

The impasse between these two dominant political parties in the Kurdistan region has now spilled over into physical violence, casting a shadow over the future of democratic process in the region.

It remains to be seen how these events will impact the upcoming elections (if they are held at all in the near future).

Stay tuned as we continue to report on this developing story.