Iraqi Federal Court
Iraqi Federal Court

Live: Federal court rules extended Kurdistan parliament session null-and-void

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Security reshuffle in Sulaymaniyah continues

The reshuffle of security positions in Sulaymaniyah by PUK leader Bafel Talabani, continues. Recently, Talabani met with Polo Shalaw Ali Askari, the newly appointed Head of the Peshmarga Intelligence Directorate.

The official statement about the meeting did not elaborate on specific topics discussed, but did include Bafel Talabani congratulating Askari and advising him to be "highly dedicated to serving the Peshmarga forces".

Since unitary seizing power over the PUK in an internal putsch  Bafel Talabani has carried out numerous changes to security posts within the PUK's sphere of influence. The Peshmarga Intelligence position was formerly occupied by Jalal Sheikh Naji, who has since been promoted to the chief of the PUK's Zanyari Intelligence Agency.

Talabani has also reassigned the directors of the Sulaymaniyah Asayish (Security) forces in Garmyan and Ranya. There have been other shifts in security roles under Talabani's tenure, leading some observers to speculate that he aims to strengthen his hold within his zone and the PUK.

Lahur Talabany, former co-chair of the PUK, was ousted from power in 2021, an event Talabany characterized as "a coup."

Statement by KDP spokesperson 

As is evident to all, our party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has diligently worked during our legal term and at the close of the fifth term of the Kurdistan Parliament. Our aim has been to ensure elections are carried out within the prescribed legal timeframe. In pursuit of this objective, we've conducted numerous meetings and discussions with other political parties involved in the political process. We've strongly urged them to take substantial steps towards preparing for elections within the scheduled timeframe.

We do not intend to rehash the measures we've taken or reaffirm our commitment to the process. Rather, we call upon all political parties and the people of Kurdistan, each in line with their responsibilities, to lend their support and help facilitate a free and fair election. We also call on the government and relevant institutions to take necessary steps to ensure a successful process. The KDP's primary emphasis remains on conducting the elections for the Kurdistan Parliament. We look forward to a successful outcome.

Mahmood Mohammed
Spokesperson of the Kurdistan Democratic Party
Wafa Mohammed, a top official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has reacted to a recent court decision. He says the decision was "expected" after elections were delayed at the request of the PUK and Gorran parties. Mohammed believes this threatens democracy in the Kurdish region.

He described the Kurdistan Parliament as "dead," noting to Al-Sumaria News that it hasn't met frequently and its last meeting ended in a dispute. According to Mohammed, those who pushed for the election delay are responsible for the court's decision.

He fears this delay will harm the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) image and invite criticism from international organizations.

So far, media outlets Kurdistan24 and Bas News, which have ties to Masrour Barzani, haven't reported this news quickly. Instead, they're discussing Turkey and the United Nations. Meanwhile, Rudaw, linked to President Nechirvan Barzani, a cousin and rival of Masrour, is covering the court decision.
A few moments later, Hadi Ali, head of the KUI leadership council of tweeted about the decision, stating, "this will be a turning point that will impact the administration of this region, as it calls for necessary and rightful changes in this regard."

Ex-KIU MP: Ruling party factions to blame for legislative violations

The first reaction from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) following the Iraqi Federal Court's verdict came from their former MP, Sarchinar Ahmed. She characterized the decision as the cessation of the "corrupt elongation of the Kurdistan Parliament."

The verdict marks a significant turning point, considering the Kurdistan Parliament has extended its term on eight separate occasions in the past. Ahmed articulates her "hope that this ruling will definitively put an end to such extensions."

She harks back to the instance when the Kurdistan Parliament's term was extended, prompting KIU members to dissent against the decision and subsequently resign from parliament. Ahmed underscores the significance of honoring voters' mandate after completing a four-year term. She accuses the "ruling party factions within the Kurdistan Parliament of being accountable for flouting laws and agreeing to extend their own terms."

Ahmed asserts that "the legitimacy of all institutions within the Kurdish Region is now under scrutiny," and it's imperative to collaborate with the Iraqi Electoral Commission to arrange impartial and transparent elections as promptly as possible. She is of the opinion that through such democratic processes, the Kurdish Region can reestablish its credibility and legitimacy.

Here's the text of the court verdict

The Federal Supreme Court issued the following decision:

1. It has ruled the law for the continuation of the fifth session of the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament (No. 12 of 2022) to be unconstitutional. This law was enacted by the Parliament of Kurdistan - Iraq during its regular 11th session on October 9, 2022. The court declared that the term of the fifth session of the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region - Iraq had expired at the end of the legal period specified in Article 51 of Law No. 1 of 1992. This law was amended by Article 3 of Law No. 5 of 1998, which served as the first amendment to Law No. 1 of 1992. Consequently, any actions undertaken by the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region - Iraq after the end of that legal period are deemed constitutionally invalid. This decision is based on the provisions of Article 13, Section 2, of the Constitution of the Republic of Iraq for the year 2005.

2. The court has rejected the claim made against the second plaintiff (President of the Kurdistan Region, in addition to his position) on the grounds of absence of a dispute.

3. The plaintiffs are required to bear all fees, expenses, and attorney’s charges, including those of the representative of the second defendant (the president of the Kurdistan Region, in addition to his position). The first plaintiff (the speaker of parliament, in her position) will cover the attorney's fees for both plaintiffs, amounting to 100,000 dinars, to be allocated according to law.

The ruling, arrived at by a substantial majority, is binding on all authorities based on the provisions of Articles 93 (Section 1) and 94 of the Constitution of the Republic of Iraq for the year 2005, along with Articles 4 (Section 1) and 5 (Section 2) of the Federal Supreme Court Law No. 30 for the year 2005. This was later amended by Law No. 25 for the year 2021. This decision was publicly declared on May 30, 2023.
Good point here by Mera Bakr that may temper any PUK excitement. With the parliament session null-and-void, elections would have to take place under existing format and electoral laws, which the PUK has been lobbying extremely hard to reform. 

The recent verdict indeed raises profound questions about the primacy of local law in the Kurdistan Region, as reflected in the remarks of Winthrop Rodgers, the former editor of NRT English:

For many decades, the internal affairs of Kurdistan have essentially been insulated from federal judicial meddling. This level of autonomy was established post-Gulf War when a safe haven was created in Northern Iraq, which later transformed into the KRG.

However, recent developments have seemingly allowed the federal courts to gradually reclaim some semblance of jurisdiction over the politics and legislative issues of Kurdistan.

These setbacks signal a potential shift in the relationship between the KRG and the Iraqi central government, reshaping the landscape of Iraqi federalism and setting the stage for potentially significant changes in the KRG's mode of self-governance. 

We await the response the KDP, who control security and armed forces in much of the Kurdistan Region. It may be that they simply chose to ignore the ruling, as they've done in the past. But with the Region's fiscal levers of control being stripped away at pace, the ability to ignore such rulings without consequence may also be diminished. Even if they manage to brush off the verdict, they will face internal challenges from opposition parties and their main rivals, the PUK, who will welcome the news from Iraq's federal court.
Masrour Barzani-linked Kurdistan24 and Bas News have not rushed to share the news. They're talking about Turkey and the UN on TV, with no mention of the ruling on social media or the website.

It would be uncharitable to assume they're waiting for the brief from their political sponsors before covering the verdict. 

Rudaw, linked to Masrour's cousin and intra-party rival President Nechirvan Barzani, is covering the verdict. 
We can draw parallels with a similar event in the United Kingdom in 2019 when the Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue (or suspend) Parliament for five weeks in the run-up to Brexit was unlawful.

The ruling, which marked a significant moment in UK constitutional history, was seen as a victory for parliamentary sovereignty. Johnson's decision was viewed as an attempt to limit parliamentary scrutiny over his Brexit strategy. The Supreme Court's ruling emphasised that the executive branch cannot unilaterally decide to limit parliamentary debate on critical national issues. 

Moving across the Atlantic, we find another precedent in the US in 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down President Barack Obama's decision to make recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was on a short break.The court ruled that Obama had exceeded his authority,  stating that the Senate was technically in session because it was holding "pro-forma" sessions. 

Both these examples highlight judicial interventions into executive overreach that undermines, changes, or seeks to exploit set legislative terms, recesses, or end dates.

Back to Kurdistan, the latest ruling from the Iraqi Federal Court does not just affect the Kurdish Parliament but also reshapes the dynamics of Kurdish politics, potentially impacting the upcoming regional elections slated for November. The Iraqi electoral commission will now oversee these elections, according to those who pushed through the legal challenge. This may hinder any attempts to fiddle with the results via influence over Kurdistan's own electoral commission.  
Srwa Abdulwahid, the leader of the New Generation Movement (NGM) faction, told NRT TV that the Kurdistan Parliament and the KRG have now "fully expired".

The legal complaint was lodged by key figures such as Shaswar Abdulwahid (sibling relation), President of the New Generation Movement (NGM); Srwa Abdulwahid, Head of the NGM bloc in the Iraqi Parliament; Kawa Abdulqadir, NGM MP in Iraq; and Yousif Mohammed, former speaker of the Kurdistan parliament. 

Srwa Abdulwahid further clarified that this means the Iraqi electoral commission would be responsible for overseeing the regional elections scheduled for November.

She explained that the federal court faced "a lot of pressure", but it has 'proven its independence'.


Iraqi Federal Court rules that the decision to extend Kurdistan Parliament session for one year is "unconstitutional"
The criticism of the newly installed point-to-point speed cameras is intensifying, with a surprising critique now coming from a notable PUK leader. Blesa Jabar Farman, a member of the PUK Leadership, candidly criticized these speed cameras' installation, subtly insinuating covert endorsement from powerful figures within the KDP and PUK. In a Facebook post, she indirectly suggested those who fail to perceive the primary intent behind these cameras—to "merely empty people's pockets" —are oblivious to the struggles they endure.

Yesterday was a pivotal day as contentious "point-to-point" (average) speed cameras commenced operation in Sulaymaniyah province. Twenty-four traffic enforcement cameras are now active in both directions on the Tasluja-Dukan highway in Sulaymaniyah province, and views on their purpose are split. While some perceive them as a revenue generation tool, the traffic police insist their primary goal is to curb speeding.

The recent installation of these average speed cameras has provoked substantial populist ire, stoked by opposition parties such as the New Generation Movement (NGM). Just five days ago, during the preliminary testing phase, Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, the NGM's President, openly vowed to pursue legal action against the company managing these cameras, accusing it of merely "fleecing" people's money.

At present, the Kurdish Region leans heavily on private cars, taxis, and buses for transportation. Both the KRG and the Iraqi government have long pledged to develop railway networks to improve connectivity and alleviate traffic congestion. The fulfillment of these promises would provide residents with alternative transportation means, decrease reliance on private vehicles, and ease the pressure on the existing road infrastructure. However, such an initiative is often dismissed as impractical due to the lack of tangible plans or implementation.
The foreign diplomats have now heard the KRG's message in person: the recent amendments to the budget bill are 'unconstitutional'

Budget bill sparks renewed rift between KDP and PUK

The recent Iraqi budget bill has ignited new discord between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The KDP argues that modifications to articles 13 and 14 of the bill infringe upon the autonomy of the Kurdish Region. On the other hand, the PUK, while abstaining from publicly discussing the amendments, had its PUK Parliamentary team leader in Baghdad dismiss the KDP's assertions.

Once the amendments were finalized by the Finance Committee of the Iraqi Parliament, both the KDP and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) resigned from the Committee, citing detrimental effects on the Kurdish Region due to the amendments. Conversely, the PUK member continued participation in the sessions, showing less concern about the changes.

The KDP is particularly apprehensive about allowing provinces the authority to independently receive a distinct portion of the Iraqi budget if they find themselves in disputes with the central government.

The PUK has been aggressively advocating for separate budgets for Sulaymaniyah and Halabja, particularly during periods of friction with the KDP. PUK Leader Bafel Talabani and PUK's Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani have been engaging with Iraqi politicians and government entities, pushing for a separate budget allocation for Sulaymaniyah. Likewise, Harem Kamal Agha, Head of the PUK Team in the Iraqi Parliament, has supported this amendment, asserting that it does not compromise the autonomy of the Kurdish Region. He argues that the "same applies to Erbil and Dohuk, and they too can have separate shares, not just Sulaymaniyah and Halabja."

Several KDP officials have directly accused the PUK of being behind these amendments to the Iraqi budget, asserting that the PUK intends to segregate the budgets of Sulaymaniyah and Halabja, thereby undermining the autonomy of the Kurdish Region. Marewan Qarani, Deputy Head of the KDP team in the Iraqi Parliament, alleged that Qubad Talabani sent SMS messages to Iraqi MPs, urging them to "dissolve the Kurdish Region."

Conversely, the KDP contends that this agreement dismisses the legal standing of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Fadhil Nabi, former Iraqi Deputy Minister of Finance from the KDP, claims these amendments would "equate the power of the KRG's Prime Minister to that of the Iraqi Finance Minister". Hence, KRG issued a statement stating that these amendments "violate the constitution," echoing the KDP's concerns. The President of the Kurdistan Region, a member of the KDP, holds a similar perspective, asserting these amendments are "completely contrary to national responsibility."

The KRG Prime Minister obliquely criticized the amendments on Twitter, stating they "violate the agreement with al-Sudani's Government." This suggests the KDP might exert pressure on the incumbent government in Baghdad if the amendments remain intact. Bashir Haddad, former Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament from the KDP, didn't dismiss the possibility of "withdrawing from the Iraqi government and the political process in Baghdad" if the amendments remain.

In reaction to the amendments, the KDP has embarked on political diplomacy in Baghdad, aiming to negotiate fresh agreements with Iraqi political parties regarding the changes. The KDP's Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fouad Hussein, invited the State Administration Coalition to his residence, leading to further modifications to the amendments.

While there's no official statement from PUK officials in the KRG about the amendments to articles 13 and 14 of the Iraqi budget, which directly affect the Kurdish share and the process of exporting Kurdish oil, ousted PUK Co-Chair Lahur Sheikh Jangi obliquely called for unity, stating, "Please correct the mistake... your personal hatred for one another shouldn't undermine our progress."

The New Generation Movement (NGM) believes that the current amendments benefit the Kurdish people and KRG employees, as they include a clause obliging the KRG to repay 10% of the deducted salaries of employees. Additionally, NGM believes the budget will enhance transparency concerning oil exports and revenue.

Conversely, the Change Movement (Gorran) has an ambiguous stance. Gorran's KRG Minister of Finance, Awat Janab Nouri, publicly announced they would not adhere to the amendments to the Iraqi budget bill. However, on May 27, Gorran released a statement calling for a "senior meeting of main political parties in the Kurdish Region" to address internal disagreements and changes in the political climate in Iraq while preserving the Kurdish Region's entity.

In the meantime, the Finance Committee of the Iraqi Parliament is advocating for hastening the parliamentary session to vote on the Iraqi budget bill, stressing the importance of the bill's approval to launch the promised projects outlined within.

For more detailed insights, you can refer to an NRT English analysis on the approved budget bill amendments by the Finance Committee.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has vehemently rejected last-minute amendments to the Iraqi federal budget bill, describing them as “unconstitutional and oppressive”. The amendments, which were approved by a majority of the 23-member finance committee of the Iraqi Parliament, appear to challenge a previous agreement between Erbil and Baghdad. These changes address the handling and management of oil revenues, the administration of border crossings, and procedures for settling disputes. In a statement issued on Friday, the KRG asserted that the […]
NRT English
For what feels like the umpteenth time, the KRG has declared readiness to recommence oil exports. Ankara, on the other hand, has purportedly attributed the delay in reinitiating oil exports from the Kurdistan Region to technical snags. Yet, the root of the problem seems far from technical. Neither Baghdad nor Erbil has shed light on the possible backstage maneuvers. Aspects such as the Turkish elections, Ankara's political and economic stakes, and recent disagreements between Erbil and Baghdad regarding the federal budget bill have all been speculated as potential causes for the postponement.

The International Chamber of Commerce in Paris adjudicated in favor of the Iraqi government against Turkey, mandating Ankara to pay $1.5 billion following unauthorized exports of the region’s oil by the Turkish government between 2014 and 2018. Post adjudication, Turkey ceased the region’s oil export on March 25.

Here's the KRG's Ministry of Natural Resources statement concerning the meeting between the acting minister and Iraqi officials:

An envoy from the Ministry of Natural Resources, spearheaded by Acting Minister Kamal Mohammed Salih, traveled to Baghdad and convened separate meetings with Judicial Council President Faiq Zidan and Federal Oil Minister Hayan Abdul Ghani. The conciliations of past lawsuits between the involved parties were discussed during these meetings.

A mutual inclination to collaboratively tackle these issues was expressed by both parties. The delegation from the Ministry of Natural Resources also convened with the Federal Ministry of Oil to deliberate on strengthening cooperation between the two bodies.

Concerning the recommencement of oil exports, all necessary steps have been finalized, and both parties have demonstrated their readiness to resume oil exports at the earliest possible juncture.
This observation from former KRG official Lawk Ghafuri holds true to a certain degree: For its cabinet to be perceived as legitimate and nationally representative, Baghdad requires the backing of the Kurds, especially since the Sadrist Movement (which clinched more seats than any other faction in the 2021 elections) is absent from the government in Baghdad. 

Nonetheless, there's an important qualification to bear in mind. Kurdish participation in Baghdad is more intricate than merely the KDP, even though it's the biggest Kurdish party. The PUK, who spearheaded some of the amendments, wouldn't follow the KDP out of the door. 
The KRG has firmly rejected eleventh-hour changes to the Iraqi federal budget bill, branding them as "unconstitutional and oppressive".
Long-drawn meetings are underway between KRG and Iraqi officials, and between KRG officials and foreign diplomats, in anticipation of an upcoming vote on the budget bill.
For detailed information on the amendments and the revised versions of Articles 13 and 14, refer to our previous report.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has vehemently rejected last-minute amendments to the Iraqi federal budget bill, describing them as “unconstitutional and oppressive”. The amendments, which were approved by a majority of the 23-member finance committee of the Iraqi Parliament, appear to challenge a previous agreement between Erbil and Baghdad. These changes address the handling and management of oil revenues, the administration of border crossings, and procedures for settling disputes. In a statement issued on Friday, the KRG asserted that the […]
NRT English
Just in: KRG officials, diplomats discuss federal budget bill
The debate over Articles 13 and 14, concerning the Kurdistan Region's share of the federal budget, has occupied fresh talks between KRGmofficials and foreign diplomats.

Those in attendance included Safeen Dizayeei, head of KRG's Foreign Relations, Umed Sabah from the Prime Minister's Office, and KRG spokesperson Jutiar Adel.

Diplomatic representation included officials from the United Nations, European Union mission in the Kurdistan Region, and consul generals from several countries.

Amendments to the draft budget law, proposed by the finance committee, have sparked strong criticism from KRG officials. The KDP is reportedly considering boycotting the Iraqi government if these disputed amendments are passed by parliament as proposed.


Morning Briefing

A warm welcome from London, and a good afternoon to those joining us from the Kurdistan Region. Here's what we're following today:

  • A ruling is due (again) today from the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq regarding the extension of the Kurdistan Parliament's mandate. This decision, which has been postponed five times previously, is anxiously awaited. The Iraqi Election Commission was present at the previous hearing and expressed readiness to hold the Kurdistan parliamentary elections. Notable figures, including Shaswar Abdulwahid, President of the New Generation Movement (NGM), and Yousif Mohammed, former Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, have filed the legal challenges.
  • In other news from Baghdad, the Finance Committee of the Iraqi Parliament is urging the acceleration of the parliamentary session to vote on the Iraqi budget bill. Despite amendments made by the Committee, controversies and disputes persist, particularly concerning the allocation of the Kurdish Region's share and the repayment of deducted salaries for KRG employees. The most significant disagreement between the PUK and KDP revolves around securing a separate share of the budget for provinces from the overall Iraqi budget. We'll keep you informed about the latest meetings and agreements on these matters.
  • Back in the Kurdish Region, the introduction of the controversial average speed cameras in Sulaymaniyah province has faced challenges. On the first night, several of these speed cameras were attacked and vandalized. In response to the installation of these cameras, certain drivers and the New Generation Movement expressed concerns, accusing the installation company of essentially "stripping" people's money. We'll continue to provide updates on this matter.