KRG’s Barzani quits after vote backfires

KRG’s Barzani quits after vote backfires

ARBİL - Agence France Presse
KRG’s Barzani quits after vote backfires

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani has said he would give up his position as president on Nov. 1, after an independence referendum he championed backfired and triggered a regional crisis.

There was high drama at the Kurdish parliament, which was stormed by armed protesters as it met to approve the veteran leader’s resignation as Kurdish president. Some MPs were barricaded in their offices late on Oct. 29.

In a televised address, his first since Iraqi forces launched a surprise offensive to recapture Kurdish-held territory on Oct. 16, Barzani confirmed that he would not extend his presidential term after Nov. 1 “under any conditions.”

“I am the same Masoud Barzani, I am a Peshmerga [Kurdish fighter] and will continue to help my people in their struggle for independence,” said Barzani, who has campaigned for Kurdish self-determination for nearly four decades. The address followed a letter he sent to parliament in which he asked members to take measures to fill the resulting power vacuum.

The region’s parliament met in the Kurdish capital Erbil on Sunday to discuss the letter. A majority of 70 Kurdish MPs voted to accept Barzani’s request and 23 opposed it, Kurdish TV channels Rudaw and Kurdistan 24 said. Demonstrators, some carrying clubs and guns, stormed the parliament building as the session was in progress. Gunshots were heard.

A Kurdish official had told Reuters on Oct. that Barzani had decided to hand over the presidency without waiting for elections that had been set for Nov. 1 but which have now been delayed by eight months.

The region, which had enjoyed unprecedented autonomy for years, has been in turmoil since the independence referendum a month ago prompted military and economic retaliation from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad.

In his address, Barzani vigorously defended his decision to hold the Sept. 25 referendum, the results of which “can never be erased”, he said. The vote was overwhelmingly for independence and triggered the military action by the Baghdad government and threats from neighboring Turkey and Iran.

He said the Iraqi operation on Kirkuk vindicated his position that Baghdad no longer believed in federalism. Barzani condemned the United States for failing to back the Kurds. “We tried to stop bloodshed but the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Front [Shi’ite militias] kept advancing, using U.S. weapons,” he said.