Kurds, Sunni Arabs fear exclusion from Iraq’s new cabinet

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi is set to announce his new government within the week, but he has not consulted major Kurdish and Sunni parties about the formation of his cabinet.
Kurdish and Sunni leaders met on Sunday to call for an Iraqi government which is representative of Iraq’s culturally diverse population.

“We are close to a historical achievement represented by finalizing an independent ministerial cabinet composed of competent individuals with integrity, insulated from intervention from any political party,” PM-designate Allawi said in a Saturday tweet

Allawi, tasked by President Barham Salih on February 1, 2020 to form his cabinet within 30 days, said he will present his cabinet before Parliament before the end of this week.

Allawi has spoken to some Kurdish leaders over the phone, but has not held talks with Kurdish political leadership or the Kurdistan Regional Government regarding Kurdish representation in his cabinet. 

Kurdish leaders fear this could set a precedent in which future Iraqi governments will not take Kurdish representation into consideration.  

The Kurds are not the only ones with reservations about Allawi’s selection process. Iraq’s post-2003 political system has been designed along sectarian and ethnic lines, and Sunni Arabs also feel they have not been adequately consulted regarding the government formation.

On Sunday, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi, who is also head of the Sunni Union of Iraqi Forces coalition, met with Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The KDP is one of the two ruling parties of the Kurdistan Region and is represented by two ministers in Baghdad.

Halbousi and Barzani released a joint statement about the meeting, saying that they spoke about a host of issues, with Iraq’s current political conditions taking priority.

“Any future [Iraqi] government has to be representative of all components of Iraq and [built upon the foundation of national partnership,” the statement read.

On Saturday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) PM Masrour Barzani, in his meeting with Mohammed Ali al-Hakeem, Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, addressed Kurdish concerns even more directly.

Barzani “asserted that the Kurdistan Region welcomes the formation of a government that is committed to the federal entity and constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region, and for the official institutions of the Region to select Kurdistan Region’s ministers in the new Iraqi government.”

Iraq’s next government must also answer the demands of protestors who have been on the streets for more than five months demanding reform, an overhauled political system, and parliamentary elections.

Although caretaker PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi was forced to resign by the popular demands of Iraqi protesters in December of 2019, relations between the KRG and Iraq’s federal government improved drastically under his premiership. 

Relations had gradually deteriorated prior to Abdul-Mahdi’s tenure, especially since 2014 when the Iraqi government cut the KRG’s budget share due to disputes over the KRG’s independent oil sales. Relations reached a low point after an Iraqi military offensive against Kurdish forces in disputed territories in October 2017.

While relations between the two governments are currently stable, any step by PM-designate Allawi that the Kurds perceive as decreasing their protection under the current constitution or limiting their access to the federal budget might not bode well.

Mohammed al-Khalidi, an MP from the Bayariq al-Khayr bloc in Iraqi parliament, speaking to Rudaw on Friday, said that the Iraqi PM has picked independent ministers “from components, not parties.”

However, Meeran Mohammed, a Kurdish MP in the Iraqi Parliament, told Rudaw on Sunday that Kurds and Sunnis “are not convinced” with the PM’s approach.

Shiite parties, who back the PM-designate, have reportedly given him a free hand in picking his cabinet. However, Kurdish parties have argued that without their direct input, Kurdish interests will not be represented in the federal government. 

“Kurds should not be dealt with based on this standard because Kurds are not part of the destruction wrought upon provinces of southern Iraq, and I believe it is impossible that a cabinet not supported by two important components of Iraq succeeds,” Mohammed said.

“Iraq is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country, and to ensure its security and stability, it needs to be built on the pillars of partnership, consensus, and balance, and to guarantee its growth, we have to secure security and peace together as components of this country,” Masoud Hayder, former Kurdish MP and a figure close to Masoud Barzani, said in a Facebook post on Sunday. 

Allawi has the support of all Shiite blocs, which control more than the 170 seats needed to ensure a majority to pass his chosen cabinet.

Source: https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/160220203


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