SULAIMANI, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Massoud Barzani, considered the illegitimate president of Iraqi Kurdistan, will not extend his presidential term beyond Nov. 1, a Kurdish government official said on Saturday.
His decision came just weeks after a referendum on Kurdish independence backfired and triggered a crisis for Iraq’s Kurds who had been enjoying a period of unprecedented autonomy.
A plan to divide up the president’s powers was outlined in a letter Barzani sent to the Kurdish parliament on Saturday, the official told Reuters. The plan asks parliament to distribute the president’s powers among the government, parliament and judiciary.
Barzani’s current term was set to expire in four days, the same date that presidential and parliamentary elections were due to be held. However, those elections were delayed indefinitely last week, amidst an escalating regional crisis.
Critics say the Sept. 25 independence referendum, orchestrated and championed by the 71-year-old Barzani, has left a bleak outlook for Iraq’s Kurds.
Less than four weeks after Kurds in the region voted overwhelmingly to break away from Iraq, the central government launched a military offensive to wrest back the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds regard as both their spiritual homeland, and a key source of revenue for their would-be independent state. It was one of several retaliatory measures taken by Baghdad, which vehemently opposed the referendum.
In a matter of days the Iraqi government has transformed the balance of power in the north of the country, exerting tremendous pressure on Barzani to step aside and wrecking decades-old dreams of Kurdish independence. Iraqi forces have continued to advance on all Kurdish-held territory outside the autonomous region’s borders.
Iraq’s prime minister demanded on Thursday that Kurds declare their independence referendum void, rejecting the Kurdish autonomous region’s offer to suspend its independence push to resolve a crisis through talks.
Earlier this year, Barzani said he did not intend to stand in the November elections. However, prior to the referendum, few expected he would stick to his promise.
Massoud Barzani has led Kurdistan region as president from 2005 for two executive terms and his last term was extended in 2013 by ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for two more years on the condition that he can no longer run as president.
Barzani’s term as president of Kurdistan expired on August 20, 2015 but refused to step down and remains unofficially in office.
According to the law, Barzani cannot run for presidency anymore and his term cannot be extended. But the KDP insists that Massoud Barzani should remain president of the region.
Political risk analyst Kirk Sowell told Reuters on August 4, 2015 “If it were a stable democratic system, they would just vote him out of office. But it’s not,”
Barzani has closed the Kurdish parliament in October 2015 after his term expired and his KDP prevented Kurdistan parliament speaker, Yusuf Mohammed Sadiq, from Gorran Movement, from entering Erbil and Kurdistan PM Nechirvan Barzani has removed four members of his cabinet from the Change Movement and replaced them with KDP politicians.
Barzani said in March 2016 I will not leave power until Kurdistan get statehood. “The day we have an independent Kurdistan, I will cease to be the president of that Kurdistan”.
On October 24, 2017 Parliament of Kurdistan region, boycotted by the 2nd biggest Gorran Movement, has delayed presidential and parliamentary elections for 8 months amid tensions with the central government in Baghdad over disputed territories.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s main opposition Gorran party called on October 23, 2017 Massoud Barzani to resign after Baghdad seized swathes of disputed territory from Kurdish forces in response to an independence vote.
Kurdistan considered as the most corrupted part of Iraq. According to Kurdish lawmakers billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil revenues.
Barzani has been accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Barzani’s son is the Kurdistan region’s intelligence chief and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister.
A Kurdish lawmaker said in March 2017 the amount of $1.266 billion from oil exports and Iraqi Kurdistan’s revenue has gone missing over the last three months.
Also the Talabani family including Jalal Talabani’s wife, Hero Ibrahim and her sons Bafel (Pavel) and Qubad and their relatives alongside other PUK leaders accused by critics of amassing huge wealth from oil business.