The Kurdistan Region is a federated region in Iraq. Its main institutions are the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdistan Region Presidency, and the Kurdistan Parliament. As stipulated in Iraq’s federal constitution, Kurdistan’s institutions exercise legislative and executive authority in many areas, including allocating the Regional budget, policing and security, education and health policies, natural resources management and infrastructure development.
The democratically elected Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) exercises executive power according to the Kurdistan Region’s laws, as enacted by the Kurdistan Parliament.
The current government, led by Prime Minister Barham Salih, assumed office on 28 October 2009. His Deputy is Mr Azad Barwari.
The government coalition consists of several political parties, reflecting the diversity of the Region’s people, who are Kurds, Turkmen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriac, Yazidis and others living together in harmony and tolerance.
The cabinet is made up of members of the Kurdistani List coalition, which won the region’s parliamentary elections in July 2009, together with other parties. The coalition government consists of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Kurdistan Islamic Movement, the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council, Turkmen representatives, Communists and Socialists. The government has 19 ministries.
The KRG is based in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region. It administers the governorates of Erbil, Suleimaniah and Dohuk.
Kurdistan Region Presidency
The Kurdistan Region Presidency (KRP) was promulgated as an institution by the Kurdistan Parliament in 2005. The President of the Kurdistan Region has the highest executive authority. He or she is elected by secret ballot in a popular vote every four years and can stand for election for a second term.
Mr. Masoud Barzani, the current president, was elected as the Kurdistan Region’s first president on 31 January 2005 by the Kurdistan Parliament, and re-elected by secret popular ballot by the people of the Kurdistan Region in July 2009, with 70% of the vote. The Deputy President is Mr Kosrat Rasul Ali. The President’s secretariat, called the Diwan, is headed by the Chief of Staff.
The President represents the people of Kurdistan at national and international levels and oversees relations and coordination between the Region and the Iraqi federal authorities. He also represents the people of Kurdistan at Iraq’s Political Council for National Security, and in negotiations and consultations with other parties in Iraq.
He is responsible for approving the KRG Prime Minister’s special appointments and promotions, and for ratifying all laws passed by the Kurdistan Parliament. He has the power to return once only for further debate and amendment any law passed by the Parliament.
The Kurdistan Parliament is the Kurdistan Region’s democratically elected legislature. The parliament consists of one elected chamber. Its three main functions are:
- to examine proposals for new laws
- to scrutinise government policy and administration
- to debate the major issues of the day.
The founding principles of the parliament are liberty, pluralism, accountability, openness and the representation of all peoples in the Kurdistan Region.
Structure of the Parliament
There are 111 seats in the Assembly (as stipulated in Law No. 1 passed in 1992). The Kurdistan Parliament is lead by the Speaker, Dr Kamal Kirkuki, who is assisted in his duties by the Deputy
Speaker, Dr Arslan Bayez.
In February 2009 several amendments were made to the Kurdistan election law to increase inclusiveness of all groups. The minimum age of parliamentary candidates was lowered from 30 to 25.
While seats had already been reserved in previous elections for minority communities, for the Christian and Turkmen communities this was increased to five seats each. The legal minimum quota of women MPs was increased from 25 percent to 30 percent of the legislature. In the current parliament, 36 of the 111 MPs are women.
In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein withdrew his forces and administration from parts of the Kurdistan Region. Faced with an administrative vacuum and a double embargo, the Kurdistan Front, an alliance of diverse political groups opposed to the Ba’ath dictatorship, organised a general election. Their goal was to establish an administration and fulfil the population’s strong desire to choose its representatives.
The election on 19 May 1992 was the first free and fair parliamentary election in the history of Iraq.
Voter turnout was very high and the elections were deemed to be free, fair, and democratic by international observers. After decades of dictatorship, the people in Kurdistan were able to choose their representatives.
This regional election led to the formation of the first Kurdistan National Assembly (later renamed the Kurdistan Parliament) and the establishment of the KRG. The leadership and the people of the Kurdistan Region decided to remain part of Iraq, and to adopt and abide by all national laws except for those that violated human and universal rights.
Elections for the Kurdistan Parliament are held at least every four calendar years, (as stipulated in Article 8 of the Kurdistan Electoral Law). The last parliamentary elections were held on 25 July 2009.
Anyone aged 18 or over who is a citizen of the Kurdistan Region and is on the electoral register is eligible to vote in a direct, universal and secret ballot. Elections for the Kurdistan Parliament are based on a closed party-list proportional representation system. Electors vote for a party’s list of candidates, rather than for an individual candidate. After the election results are announced, each party is allocated seats in proportion to the number of votes it received, using the ranking order of candidates on its list.
Powers of the Kurdistan Parliament
As provided in the federal constitution of Iraq, parliament has considerable power to debate and legislate on policy in a wide range of areas: health services, education and training, policing and security, the environment, natural resources, agriculture, housing, trade, industry and investment, social services and social affairs, transport and roads, culture and tourism, sport and leisure, and ancient monuments and historic buildings.
The Kurdistan Parliament shares legislative power with the federal authorities in the following areas, but priority is given to the Kurdistan Parliament’s laws: customs, electric energy and its distribution, general planning, internal water resources.
In addition, under Article 121 of the Iraqi federal constitution the Kurdistan Parliament has the right to amend the application of Iraq-wide legislation that falls outside of the federal authorities’ exclusive powers.
Members of the Kurdistan Parliament
The 111 MPs in the Kurdistan parliament represent the following political lists and parties:
Kurdistan List: 59 MPs. (Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan)
Change List: 25 MPs
Reform and Services List: 13 MPs (Kurdistan Islamic Union, Islamic Group in Kurdistan, Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, Future Party)
Islamic Movement List: 2 MPs
Freedom and Social Justice List: 1 MP (Kurdistan Communist Party, Kurdistan Toilers Party,
Kurdistan Independent Work Party, Kurdistan Pro-Democratic Party, Democratic Movement of Kurdistan People).
Parliamentary seats reserved for minority groups:
Turkoman Democratic Movement: 3 MPs
Turkoman Reform List: 1 MP
Turkoman Erbil List: 1 MP
Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council: 3 MPs
Al-Rafidain List: 2 MPs
1 Armenian independent MP: Mr Aram Shahin Dawood Bakoyian.
Landmark legislation passed by the Kurdistan Parliament
The Kurdistan Parliament has passed several laws that have contributed to the Region’s social and economic progress. These include:
- passing a modern and open investment law;
- passing a progressive hydrocarbons (oil and gas) law for the Kurdistan Region;
- significantly increasing the prison sentence for those committing so-called honour killings, which were previously given minimum sentences.
- placing limits on the practice of polygamy.