Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (2nd R) and his Iraqi Kurdish counterpart Nechirvan Barzani (2nd L) attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers in Arbil, about 350 km (220 miles) north of Baghdad, June 9, 2013. Maliki visited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on Sunday for the first time in more than two years, in an attempt to resolve a long-running dispute over oil and land that has strained Iraq’s unity to the limit. (photo by REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)
By: Bassem Francis
The Islamic parties of the opposition warned the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq of any attempts to “secularize the constitution” through the amendment of Article 6, which considers Islam to be the main source of legislation. In this framework, the opposition parties announced that they will meet in the coming week to agree on a final stance on whether to put their candidate up for the presidency of the region or support another candidate.
Fouad Hussein, head of the Kurdistan region’s presidential office, confirmed in a statement to the independent newspaper Hawlati that “the discussion of the region’s draft law entails the discussion of all its articles, in addition to the possibility of amending Article 6.” The statement was issued as part of the tug of war between Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which refuses to return the draft law to the parliament, on the one hand, and its ally the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and the other opposition parties, on the other.
Opposition Islamic League spokesman Muhammad Hakim told Al-Hayat that “Hussein’s statement is out of place, despite the fact that he has the freedom to propose the amendment of Article 6, as does the president and the KDP. Yet, by doing so, they would be impeding public demand since the region’s majority, equivalent to over 95% of Muslims, refuses the secularization of the constitution. Moreover, this step constitutes pressure [exerted] against the opposition’s Islamic League and the Kurdistan Islamic Union, which are both stressing the return of the draft law to the parliament for amendment.”
Hakim added that “the plan has backfired since Article 6 does not concern one party only, but all the Muslims in the region. Currently, there has been a wave of public complaints, and we have found out that our brothers in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan expressed their unwillingness to amend the article. I believe this is the stance of the Movement for Change as well.”
The opposition demands that the regime in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq be changed from presidential to parliamentary, after determining the president’s privileges. Yet, Barzani’s party insists on proposing the draft law for referendum, in an attempt to find a loophole that gives Barzani the right to run for president for a third term.
In the same context, Islamic League leader Abu Bakr Halandi said that Hussein “was playing with fire” with the statements he issued, and Halandi emphasized that “this is putting pressure on Islamic forces demanding the amendment of the constitution.”
Regarding the attempts of the opposition parties to nominate their candidate for the presidency of the region, he said, “The opposition’s coordination committee will hold a meeting next week to discuss the issue. We confirm that we have not yet decided on any candidate.” Whether the decision was related to the candidacy of Barzani for a third term, Halandi noted, “Regardless of Barzani’s candidacy, the opposition has the right to present a candidate, but we haven’t taken a final decision yet.”
The Islamic forces had failed to agree on forming a coalition to participate in the elections scheduled for Sep. 21, 2013, thus walking in the footsteps of Talabani’s and Barzani’s parties to participate in the elections with individual lists.