Leader of the Change (Gorran) Movement, Nawshirwan Mustafa, returned back to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region on Saturday from a medical trip in London. Mustafa arrived early this morning into Sulaimani International Airport. His office had not previously provided a definitive time frame for Mustafa’s return to the Kurdistan Region, however the possibility of a May 9 return had been circulated according to a member of the Kurdistan Parliament from Gorran, Munira Othman, NRT reported. Mustafa went to Germany for medical treatment in September 2015. After his stay in Germany, he went to the U.K. for a “medical follow-up”. He returned to Kurdistan for a short time in April 2016. Shorsh Haji, spokesperson of Gorran told Rudaw that he was unaware of what prompted Mustafa’s return. Since then the Gorran head has been largely absent amid a political crisis that has threatened at times to destabilize the region. Gorran has 24 seats in now-closed Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament, the second most after the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Recent frictions between the two parties have only deepened over the past weeks as Gorran’s acting Governor in Sulaimani Sardar Qadir resigned from office in protest against what he called lack of cooperation, and PUK’s increasing partnership with the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to reopen the region’s parliament which has been closed since October 2015. The parliament was shut down after the KDP removed its Gorran Speaker Yousif Muhammad in retaliation for deadly riots that hit KDP offices in Sulaimani province nearly 2 years ago. The KDP has accused Gorran of masterminding the protests that killed several KDP members and wounded dozens more. The KDP has since opposed the return of the former speaker and asked the parties to reopen the parliament by electing a new speaker, something Gorran has insistently opposed. “If the parliament is reopened while the (current) speaker is removed, it will be against the agreement”, between the PUK and Gorran, said Mahwi Muhammad, head of Gorran office in Sulaimani referring to ongoing negotiations between the PUK and KDP to reopen the assembly. “We expect the PUK to officially announce the end of the agreement. It is true half of the PUK have opposed the deal but we still expect the other half to implement the agreement”, he added. The polemical PUK-Gorran pact sent shockwaves in Kurdistan Region when it was announced in May last year whose implementation could have upset the political order in the country dominated by the powerful KDP and its strategic alliance with the PUK. The deal would most notably allow PUK and Gorran to enter general elections on a joint ballot and consequently increase their chances to form the next Kurdish cabinet, which if implemented, would have diminished KDP’s dominance over government bodies since the 1990s. Gorran members have accused PUK of not “honouring” the deal not only in the parliament controversy, but also in Sulaimani province where both parties have the bulk of their power bases. According to Gorran of nearly 840 provincial posts in Sulaimani and Halabja, the party holds only 33 offices.
Iran’s exiled Kurdish opposition groups have jointly called on Kurdish voters to boycott upcoming general elections in the country describing the May elections as “a masquerade” staged by “a regime that has deprived the human and just rights” of the people in Iran’s Kurdistan. The six leading opposition groups based in Kurdistan Region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (HDK), the Kurdistan Communist Party (Komele), the Kurdistan Communist Party-Iran (Shorishger), the Kurdistan Struggle Orgniztaion (Xebat), the Kurdistan Democratic PartyIran (HDKA) and the Iranian Kurdistan Communist Organisation said in a joint statement that the boycott of elections “is a way to prevent further oppression and crackdown through elections”. Election campaigns for the post of the country’s presidency and city councils kicked off last week with the incumbent President Hasan Rouhani leading the so-called moderate camp against the conservative hardliners including Ebrahim Raisi, a potential successor to Iran’s supreme leader and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kurdish voters overwhelmingly voted for Rouhani in the 2013 elections whose campaign promises included recognition of broader Kurdish cultural and educational rights. But critics have slammed Rouhani’s administration over the past years for what they have described as a continuation of state-sponsored discrimination against Kurdish population in the country. “We think that the boycott will eventually impact the elections given the fact that almost all opposition parties in Iran have also called on their supporters for a boycott”, said Ibrahim Alizade, Secretary General of the Komele after reading the statement at a joint press conference in Sulaimani.
Ali Awni, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leadership said the efforts are now concentrated on getting all the Kurdish sides to reach a consensus over the independence, noting that the referendum is a momentous move. Speaking to BasNews, Awni said a conclusive historic time is ahead the two major Kurdish parties, namely KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). He argued that Kurds have lost hope in coexistence and partnership in Iraq. The official said the independence referendum has been discussed with all Iraqi factions and foreign envoys. “We have made our decision to hold a referendum, and this wish of Kurdistan people should be respected”, said the official. He added that “the KDP-PUK meetings will result in a referendum and then independence”.
Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the Iraqi Shi’ite political party of Dawa, said they will endorse the outcome of the Kurdistan Region independence referendum provided that the referendum does not include Kirkuk province, according to Iraqi media. Iraqi local news outlets have reported that Maliki, who is also the Iraqi VP, has stated that they will approve the result of the referendum for the Kurdistan Region independence if the process is held only in the three Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Duhok. He has stated that the referendum cannot be conducted in Kirkuk, claiming that it is an Arabic city. However, Salah Dalo, a Kurdish official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told BasNews that Maliki does not have the right to intervene in the Kurdistan Region’s affairs. He stated that the referendum will include all the disputed areas within the Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, stressing that the referendum will be held this year. The Kurdish official described Maliki’s remarks as an attempt to cover his failures and gain Arab public support.