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Iraq: Kurds Comment On Regional Government Unification

Adnan Mufti (file photo) (RFE/RL) Kurdish leaders signed a long-awaited agreement on 21 January to jointly administer the Kurdistan regional government. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 21 January that the two leading Kurdish parties -- the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) –- will each take 11 ministerial posts (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 January 2006).

The agreement states that other ministerial posts will be allotted to minority parties, but it fails to give specifics.

While leaders from the two ruling parties have expressed optimism over the unification agreement, leaders from minority parties say the agreement solidifies the PUK and KDP's control over Kurdistan, RFI reported.

RFI interviewed Kurdish parliamentarians representing minority parties to ask their views on unification in Irbil on 24 January.

Kurdistan Communist Party representative Dilman Amedi told RFI, "The distribution of ministerial posts has been based on a closed agreement between the two dominant parties [the PUK and KDP] as well as among the other political parties and groups that were members in the Kurdistan Coalition List in the election in Kurdistan."

Kurdistan Islamic Group leadership member Huzan Sa'id said she expected that her party would have earned some ministerial posts. "We see this period as a transitional and exceptional one. It should be natural and necessary that the distribution of ministerial posts follow the election results, and we hope this will become reality in the next election term," she said. "We see this as a transitional period and hope the period to come will be a natural one, God willing."

Kurdistan Islamic Union leadership member Muhammad Rashid Mawati also criticized the agreement. "Look at the distribution of ministerial posts -- as if they were divided only between the two [dominant Kurdish] parties. It is nothing more that the 50-50 sharing in the previous [unified Kurdish government that existed until 1994]. It is even less [worthy] now," he said. "Some ministries have been allotted to some other parties, and I think those did not know about that before. It is just an agreement between the two [dominant Kurdish] parties on dividing power in Kurdistan."

Kurdistan National Assembly speaker Adnan Mufti and Iraqi Minister of Planning and Reconstruction Barham Salih (both PUK members) had a more inward-looking stance on unification. They spoke about the agreement with RFI in Irbil on 21 January, and what it means for the future of Kurdistan. The interview was broadcast on 22 January.

Adnan Mufti: The most important thing is that this law [on government unification] provides for launching new ministries. There may be other, partial issues, based on the unification [agreement] text and based on what the legislative committee [of the Kurdistan parliament] proposes. We will be discussing these issues. Laws on the [Kurdistan] Region presidency and council of ministers will be amended. After that, we will call an extraordinary meeting [of the parliament] to appoint the prime minister and the deputy prime minister of the unified government. Thereafter, we will ask the president of the region to entrust them both with setting up the cabinet. They will have to announce and present the [cabinet] to the parliament within a definite period.

RFI: To what extent is naming the deputy prime minister related to the government change and forming a unified cabinet?

Mufti: The deputy prime minister is a different issue, not related to forming the cabinet. I mean, the legal amendment has no effect on forming the cabinet. Even if there was a delay in amending the law on the region's presidency and introducing the post of deputy prime minister, it will still be possible to amend the law on the council of ministers. When we appoint the new prime minister and his deputy, we will already know the number of ministries that the new cabinet will consist of.

RFI: In your opinion, how long will it be until the new cabinet is announced?

Mufti: Between the appointment [of the new prime minister] and the announcement [of the new cabinet], there can be maximum one month.

Barham Salih: There are problems we have been facing in Kurdistan's society, and the problems are well-known. We should not ignore the most recent history of the situation in Kurdistan. We went through a period of internal war [1994-1995] and a [subsequent] division of the Kurdish administration, in addition to other problems and tragedies to which the people of Kurdistan have been exposed. In order to overcome these conflicts and focus on a real national unity, I wish [to address] one clear message to the other parts of Iraq: in the present conditions, we need to gather and unite on a nationwide democratic project that will preserve our basic demands for this period. These basic demands consist in building a federal democratic Iraq that will be friendly to its own people and to its neighbors.

RFI: How will [the Kurdistan government unification] help solve the [central government] crisis in Baghdad?

Salih: Well, God willing, this will strengthen the position of the Kurdistan Coalition List and its positive and constructive role in encouraging national dialogue and a peaceful partnership between the Iraqi communities.

(Translated by Petr Kubalek)

To listen to the reports in Arabic, click here and here.

Iraq's Kurdish Region

Iraq's Kurdish Region

KURDISH AWAKENING: The ethnic Kurdish region in the northern part of Iraq has struggled in recent years to reestablish its cultural and political identity after decades of oppression under the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In December, RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel traveled to this area and filed several reports:

Relative Peace Underscores Issue Of Kurdish Region's Future

Kurdish Culture Begins To Flourish In Kurdistan Region

Kurds Ponder How To Strengthen Autonomy After Elections

Irbil’s Kurds Live On A Hill Of Undiscovered Treasures

THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.

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