In the case of Sunni Shiite consensus which is very rare , the Iraqi Council of Representatives voted last Saturday on the Iraqi state budget for 2018, ending months of delay due to heated debate between them between the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil in relation to the share of the latter of the budget. The Kurdish bloc boycotted the voting session due to its refusal to allocate 12% of the budget allocated to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, calling for an increase to 17% as the case was in previous years.
In the first reaction of the Kurds – and after the approval of the budget – the MP for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Sirwan Sereni called on President of the republic Fuad Masum and political leaders in the Kurdistan region to boycott the upcoming elections and the political process. And he added in a statement “What is going on in the Iraqi parliament recently is the insistence on marginalizing the Kurds and isolating them from the political decision and pushing them to resort to other open-dimensional options to stand up and respond to these actions that violate the Constitution and the national partnership and agreements recognized since the last decade in the share of the province in the budget, He added: “We can not remain silent as spectators on the farce that is taking place in the dome of parliament against the Kurds and continue the policy of chauvinism and, national anthem, especially in March , the month of Kurdish uprisings and Kurdish martyrs.” The MP accused “the three presidencies and political parties which participated in voting to reduce the share of the region and considered them responsible for this serious work which will eliminate the previous understandings and alliances with it in the formation of previous governments. ” Sereni suggested that an international conference could be held in the Kurdistan region under the auspices of the United Nations, the United States and the international community to find another model of governance in Iraq. He accused the international community and the United Nations of the responsibility for what will happen in the future if the Kurds decide to boycott the political process.
On the same context , MP Ahmad al—Haj Rashid said “The political boycott is one of the scorched papers at this time, so resorting to this option is only in the context of Iraq’s enemies and destabilizing the country because the Iraqi situation needs stability and we are part of the people of Iraq,”. The MP of the Kurdistan Islamic Group in a statement called for ” the discussion of the matter and study it between the Iraqi political blocs,” pointing out that “the draft budget is not the end , and all that there is unfairness has occurred in the Kurdish component, not all the demands are included in the budget.” He added that “there is a set of Kurdish demands have been included within the budget, and therefore there is no alternative for a dialogue, but dialogue, to meet the demands of the Kurds and all Iraqis.” In the presence of assurances from the Iraqi government, the MP said that “the issue of reassurances do not need a promise from al-Abadi , There are courts and legislative institutions that are the best guarantors of rights of Kurds and the rest of the Iraqi components. “For its part, member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives for the “Democratic Party of Kurdistan” Najibah Naguib accused Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi of constitutional and legal violations in relation to the budget and other issues, pointing out during a press conference held in Baghdad that Abadi became prime minister in 2014 on the basis of a political document ratified by Kurds and other forces. While the Kurdish opposition MP Sarwa Abdul Wahid stressed, that «the adoption of the budget without the consent of the Kurds is a dangerous precedent, and is the first step to end the partnership». She added: “It is difficult to deal with this situation between Baghdad and the Kurds unless the Kurdish house is first reformed, and the elimination of corruption in the region.” And she ruled out that «the Kurds to boycott of Baghdad; because this step will not be wise, but rather is more dialogues».
In this context also Barzani called on in statement Kurdish political forces to a unified position in response to the reduction of the share of the Kurdistan region. Saying: «What happened in the name of the adoption of the budget is a clear breach of the principles of partnership and harmony and balance and the principles of the Constitution, and the planned persecution against the people of Kurdistan». He added: «I hope that the last step will show a lot of facts to the inside and outside, and be aware that we are a party with any mentality and culture, and it is time for the Kurdish parties to meet to take a joint decision in response to the step of the House of Representatives». He considered «the specific share of the Kurdistan region within the federal budget is very small, and does not secure the salaries of employees of Kurdistan», adding: «We are committed to partnership, but the adoption of the budget shows the lack of commitment of Baghdad to it and disregard for the interests of the people of Kurdistan». The picture of the internal Kurdish conflicts does not indicate that the various forces can be united in one position, especially since all parties have begun to prepare for the general elections scheduled for May 12. Some modern forces, such as the New Generation and the Justice Coalition are hoping to withdraw the seats held by the main parties . Observers also rule out that Barzani’s party will boycott the elections alone, with the weakness of its main partner «National Union», and the competition of emerging small Forces.
Observers and followers of the Iraqi issue that Kurdish politicians will resort to one of three options, to deal with the reality of the case made by a Shiite – Sunni alliance on the budget. The first option is the “temporary” withdrawal from the political process, waiting international mediation and external pressure to force Baghdad to modify the share of Kurdistan. The Kurdish political leadership believes that the international community will not stand on the sidelines of Baghdad as it punishes Kurdistan because of the referendum on the separation in the twenty-fifth of last September . On the other hand, observers believe that this option reminds the Kurds of their experience in the referendum, where they relied on international support a lot, but the intervention was contrary to their ambition completely, and even contributed to strengthen the position of Baghdad against them. The second Kurdish option is to resort to the Federal Supreme Court to challenge the budget. In practice, the court can support the Kurds’ claims concerning the prejudice of their rights if there is a legal cause, which would require the government to amend the budget. However, this option is not guaranteed, given the Kurdish feeling that the federal court responsible for settling the constitutional disputes will tilt towards Baghdad at their expense, and that their resort to it means an implicit Kurdish recognition of its authorities, which Irbil does not want. While the third and final option is the acceptance of the 12.6 percent set by the budget for the region, but it will be a Kurdish concession to Baghdad, and devotes the idea of the winner and defeated in the mind of the Kurdish voter, which is feared by the Kurdish parties to be punished by it during the elections next May especially as the region is suffering from an internal political and economic crisis following the referendum on secession on 25 of last September.
By passing the budget, the Kurds are about to lose their last and most dangerous choices. Over the past 14 years, the Kurds have been the winning card on all the outputs of the political process, while their united coalition, even less than two years ago, was in the Iraqi parliament, the “maker of kings ” noting that no law or legislation can be passed without the kurds having a fingerprint in it The historic Kurdish-Shiite alliance, as described, has been wobbling for four years despite attempts to ” patching” by one side or the other until the Kurdistan referendum knocked it down on September 25 last year by half, while the entry of Iraqi forces to the Kirkuk and control on the disputed areas on the sixteenth of October of the same year completed the second half. Then the matter went over the link between the parties (Baghdad and Erbil) to reach airports and border crossings. While it seems clear to all observers and followers of the Iraqi political issue that Baghdad was able to play on the Kurdish contradictions, which represented two broad fronts, the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Massoud Barzani, which dominates Erbil and Dohuk, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under the late President Jalal Talabani and the Movement for Change.
The bottom line is that the budget that the Iraqi Council of Representatives has managed to pass it, reopened the file of the relationship between the Kurds and Arabs, and between Baghdad and Erbil, and between the region government and the federal government.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies