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Iraq's Kurdish Regional Parliament Elects Interim Speaker

Iraq's Kurdish Regional Parliament Elects Interim Speaker

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019 - 13:15
Members of the Kurdistan Region Parliament attend a session in Erbil, Iraq February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Erbil- Ehsan Aziz
The parliament in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Monday elected its first ever woman speaker as a temporary stop-gap while deep political rifts persist more than four months after legislative elections.

During the body's first session since the September polls, Vala Fareed, nominated by the region’s dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was confirmed in the post by 68 votes.

However, proceedings were boycotted by the region’s second-biggest party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), amid a breakdown in talks.

“Without a signed political agreement between us, we will neither participate in the parliamentary session nor the government formation process,” PUK spokesman Latif Sheikh Omar said on Monday.

The 111-seat parliament legislates the semi-autonomous region, and its functioning is important to regional stability after several years of political upheaval which culminated in an independence referendum in September 2017.

The Kurdistan region was destabilized by the referendum, which damaged relations with the federal capital Baghdad and weakened the KRG’s budget share. Relations have since improved, despite continued disagreements over oil exports.

The KDP and the PUK have traditionally brokered a power-sharing agreement for the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Monday’s boycott was evidence of a continued rift between the parties, who are at odds over several key positions. Chief among these is the governorship of the disputed Kirkuk province and the Federal Justice Ministry in Baghdad.

The KDP acknowledged that once a binding political agreement is brokered between the two major parties, then the speakership would revert to the PUK and a new vote would be held.

“Whenever there is an agreement between the two parties, we will withdraw our candidate and vote for the PUK candidate, per our agreement,” said Umed Khoshnaw, the head of the KDP bloc in parliament.

Kurdish regional elections were held on Sept. 30.

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