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Kurdish history and Culture series
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), (Kurdish: حکومەتی هەرێمی کوردستان, Hikûmetî Herêmî Kurdistan, Arabic: حكومة إقليم كوردستان, Hukũmah Iqlīm Kūrdistān), is the official ruling body of the predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq, referred to as Iraqi Kurdistan. The KRG consists of a unicameral parliament with 111 seats known as the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament (IKP).
The cabinet is selected by the majority party or list who also select the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region. The president of Kurdistan Region is directly elected by the electorate of the region and is the head of the cabinet and chief of state who delegates executive powers to the cabinet. The prime minister is traditionally the head of the legislature body but also shares executive powers with the president. The president of Kurdistan Region is also the commander-in-chief of the Peshmerga Armed Forces. Parliament creates and passes laws by a majority vote, and the president has the power to veto any bill.
Since 1992, the governing bodies have been primarily based in Erbil (Kurdish: Hewlêr), officially declared the capital of the Region. The KRG parliament, or the Iraqi- Kurdistan Parliament (KP-I), is elected by popular vote. Voters are given one vote and may choose a single party from the list. The cabinet is selected by the majority party or parties. The majority party or coalition appoints and negotiates terms for the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region. The president of the Kurdistan Region is directly elected by the citizens of the region.
On May 19, 1992, 6 months after Kurds had gained their freedom, the first elections were held. Due to the 7% threshold the only parties which had a chance of winning seats in parliament were the KDP and the PUK. The election resulted in a narrow victory for the KDP, which with 45% of the vote gained 51 seats while the PUK with 44% of the vote gained 49 seats. However due to allegations of election fraud they divided the seats 50-50 and created a unity government. The government however collapsed and resulted in a civil war breaking out in 1994. The last parliamentary meeting was held in 1996. It resulted in the creation of two Kurdish states, a PUK-controlled state based in Silemani and a KDP-controlled state based in Hewler, both recognised themselves as legitimate rulers of Kurdistan.
The primarily goal of the 2005 elections was to end party-rule in the Iraqi Kurdistan and unify the two major parties - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - who fought a civil war in the mid-1990s over territorial disputes and control of the Kurdistan Region. Previously, the region was divided up by administrative provinces that were under control of either the KDP or the PUK. In 2004, the two parties created one unified list or coalition called the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan, which included several smaller parties as well. Not surprisingly, the coalition received the majority of votes (an overwhelming 90%) allowing the KDP and PUK to effectively divide key positions in government. The coalition achieved 104 of the 111 seats in parliament.
In June, the IKP held its first official meeting with Massoud Barzani as the elected president. After six long months, the IKP finally agreed on administration positions. In 2006, the government was selected with Nechervan Idris Barzani as prime minister. The parties also negotiated terms for the prime minister. Nechervan Barzani, who is a member of the KDP, was expected to serve two years and would be replaced with a PUK candidate in 2008.
Governorate elections were held in Iraq, in 2005, including in the three Kurdish provinces. The elections resulted in a KDP victory in Hewler and Duhok with PUK a victory in Silemani. In total the PUK won the most votes during in these 3 provinces together with a total of 765,544 votes (43.4%) however they won only 48 seats while the KDP with 741,483 votes (42%) won 62 seats. Other parties won only 4 seats in Kurdish provinces. Kurdish parties also won majorities in Ninawa and Kirkuk.
The latest parliamentary elections were held on 25 July 2009. Kurdistan List, a joint list of KDP and PUK, won the largest share of seats and was tasked to form the next government. Major opposition parties include Change List and Reform List with 25 and 13 seats respectively. The new prime minister, Barham Salih of PUK, assumed office on 28 October 2009. Minority Turkmen have five seats and Christians (Chaldeans and Armenians) are represented with four seats. The new KRG government has 19 ministries.
In 2005, Massoud Barzani was elected as President of Iraqi Kurdistan by the parliament. In 2009, the KRG decided that the president would no longer be selected by parliament, and instead, direct elections would take place. In the 2009 elections, President Barzani ran for reelection and faced a host of candidates running against him including Halow Ibrahim Ahmed, Kamal Mirawdily, Ahmed Mohammed Rasul and Hussein Garmiyani. The election was a landslide victory for Barzani as he won approximately 70% of the votes. Kemal Mirawdily came in second with 25%.
The KRG has assumed the role of a government in a federal region of Iraq. As stipulated by the Iraqi constitution, Iraq will be divided into federal regions that will handle their own domestic affairs while the Baghdad central government will deal with international affairs. The single most controversial issue regarding federalism is oil. The KRG under Nechervan Barzani has signed several oil contracts with foreign states, including companies in the United States and China. While the KRG asserts that such contracts are legal under Iraqi law and the constitution, many disputes remain.
The main Kurdish parties and Peshmerga cooperated with the US-led coalition during the 2003 invasion of Iraq that led to Saddam Hussein's overthrow. Kurdish politicians were represented in the Iraqi governing council. On January 30, 2005 three elections were held in the region: 1) for Transitional National Assembly of Iraq 2) for Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly and 3) for provincial councils. The Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period recognized the autonomy of the Kurdistan Regional Government during the interim between "full sovereignty" and the adoption of a permanent constitution.
The Kurdistan Regional Government currently has constitutionally recognised authority over the provinces of Erbil, Duhok, and Silemani, as well as de facto authority over parts of Diyala and Ninawa and Kirkuk (at-Ta'mim) provinces.
One particularly difficult issue yet to be resolved is the future boundaries of the region. Many Kurds wish it to be expanded to include the largely Kurdish cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, but this is complicated by the Assyrian, Turkmen and Arab populations of both cities and the opposition of Turkey, which is concerned about the region's potential to break away from Iraq (with possible consequences for its own Kurdish minority). The final boundaries of the autonomous region are set to be decided through a number of referendums which were scheduled to be held before the end of 2007 as stipulated in the Iraqi constitution. However, the preparations needed for such a referendum to take place have not been made by the Iraqi central government, and the promised referendums have been postponed for up to six months.
In the wake of the ratification of the Iraqi constitution in October 2005, Iraqi Kurdistan reconstituted itself as a federal region under the new constitutional framework. Kirkuk's status with respect to the federal region should, under that framework, be decided by a simple majority vote in the provinces.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has inaugurated a movement to distinguish itself from the rest of Iraq, entitled "Kurdistan - The Other Iraq", in a bid to attract investors by showing its security and economic progress amidst the Iraqi War.