Barzani makes comeback on both Kurd, Iraq fronts

Veteran leader Masoud Barzani’s party can form a majority without the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2018
0

Barzani makes comeback on both Kurd, Iraq fronts

  • ‘Now that he is the great heavyweight of Kurdish politics, no-one can do without him in Baghdad’

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq: A year after a disastrous independence vote he had championed in Iraqi Kurdistan, veteran leader Masoud Barzani has made a strong comeback both on the home front and in Baghdad.
While Iraq’s presidency, a ceremonial post, has gone to Barham Saleh of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was on Sunday declared the clear winner of the September 30 parliamentary elections in the autonomous region of northern Iraq.
In the political maneuvering for ministerial posts in Baghdad, meanwhile, the KDP can also even boast it is the largest single party in Iraq. The party garnered 25 seats in Iraq’s legislative elections in May, contested mainly against party lists.
With 45 seats won in the 111-member Iraqi Kurdish parliament, Barzani’s party can form a majority without the PUK.
It can, in theory, rely solely on the 11-seat allocation reserved for the region’s minority Turkmen, Christian and Armenian communities.
“Now that he is the great heavyweight of Kurdish politics, no-one can do without him in Baghdad,” said Adel Bakawan, a research associate at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris (EHESS).
He predicted Barzani would seek the deputy premier, foreign and finance minister posts for the KDP in the federal government that is to be formed by November.
“He lost the gamble of the referendum, but the legislative (polls) in May were a tremendous moment of grace; he was courted by the Americans and the Iranians,” the two key powerbrokers in Iraq, he said.
Barzani looked down and out after the Kurdistan independence vote, which was ruled illegal by Iraq’s central government and resulted in Baghdad imposing economic penalties and retaking disputed territory.
The Iraqi Kurdish presidency has been left vacant since Barzani stepped down following the fiasco.
The appointment of a new president has been on hold, pending the drafting of a new Kurdish constitution for which no timetable has been set.
The leaders of the region’s top two political parties also took their rivalry to Baghdad, contesting the role of Iraqi president.
The PUK’s candidate Saleh won that race, maintaining a tacit accord between the two parties which sees the PUK take the federal presidency while the KDP holds the Kurdistan presidency.
Kurdistan is split politically and geographically between the KDP and the PUK, which won 21 seats in the region’s election, but unlike in the past they no longer have to work together to form a government.
According to political scientist Wathiq Al-Hashemi, the region could “see the return of two leaderships” but “regional pressures” from neighboring states are likely to rule out a return to the deadly clashes of 1994-2006 when the Kurds had rival governments.
Kurdistan’s parliamentary vote also saw the emergence of the New Generation movement, which was founded this year to channel public anger at the region’s elite.
The movement picked up eight seats in the vote, while the main opposition Goran (Change) party lost half of its seats and was left with 12 lawmakers.
Analysts put Goran’s losses down to the arrival of New Generation, whose candidates stood in opposition to the KDP and PUK.


Tunisian parliament approves prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle

A general view shows a plenary session at the Tunisian parliament in the capital Tunis on November 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 min 56 sec ago
0

Tunisian parliament approves prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle

  • The prime minister has been caught up in a dispute with the leader of the party, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is also the president’s son, and has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems

TUNIS: The Tunisian parliament approved on Monday a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed amid a political and economic crisis.
The approval is widely seen in Tunisia as a victory for Chahed over his political opponents, including his party Nidaa Tounes, who demanded that he step down because of his government’s failure to revive the economy.
Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers last week in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government.
Chahed named Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia’s independence in 1956.
A former foreign minister under the former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Kamel Morjan, became minister in charge of the public service, Tunisia’s main employer.
Portfolios such as finance, foreign affairs and the interior ministries were unchanged.
Lawmakers voted to approve the reshuffle, giving Chahed support to push on with economic reforms asked by lenders.
“Since two years we were working under random shelling from friendly fire,” Chahed said in speech in the parliament.
“We have not found political support in the reforms and in the fight against corruption, this is no longer possible as we want clarity to move forward in reviving the economy and ending the political crisis,” he said.
The prime minister has been caught up in a dispute with the leader of the party, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is also the president’s son, and has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems.
The party’s demands have been supported by the influential UGTT union, which has also opposed Chahed’s plans to overhaul loss-making public companies.
The political wrangling has alarmed donors which have kept Tunisia afloat with loans granted in exchange for a promise of reforms such as cutting a bloated public service.
“This reshuffle is a coup against the winning party in the 2014 elections ... Chahed did not consult with Nidaa Tounes about this reshuffle,” Sofian Toubel, an official in Nidaa Tounes said.
Tunisia has been hailed for its democratic transition since 2011 but the North African country has been hit by economic crisis and militant attacks since then.