This article was published on Ekurd Daily on 2 March 2017.

Iraqi Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani. Photo: AFP

HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Masoud Barzani said the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament and presidential elections will be held in September this year.

“There will be two elections in September: parliament and presidential,” Barzani said during an interview with French Le Monde newspaper published on February 23.

Barzani said the presidential term, which is four years, can only be extended once, adding he “reluctantly” extended it to two more years due to the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

“Law is important so I won’t be a candidate myself. There are many people in the parties and they can put themselves forwards as a candidate. Independents can also be candidates,” Barzani added.

Barzani’s second term as president ended in July 2013 but was extended by two years in a deal between his KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK — the two main Kurdish political parties.

The crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan erupted after Massoud Barzani’s term as Kurdistan President ended on August 20, 2015 but refused to step down and remains unofficially in office. According to the law, Barzani cannot run for presidency anymore and his term cannot be extended.

Barzani said he intends to use the time between now and September to put all his efforts into working towards the independence of Kurdistan.

Barzani said in March 2016 “I will not leave power until Kurdistan get statehood”.

In February 2016, Barzani called for a non-binding referendum on independence from the rest of Iraq, taking advantage of growing international support, especially in light of the ongoing war against the IS.

Kurdish politicians accuse Barzani of using the self-determination issue as means to stay in power and monopoly it.

Regarding a referendum, Barzani said independence is a right of every nation including the Kurdish people. “Most of the Iraqi Kurds are with that solution.”

Iraqi Kurds say “whenever Massoud Barzani appears on TV to talk about independence, we all laugh. We know he’s trying to distract us from some crisis or corruption scandal. But nobody buys it anymore.”

In February reliable sources have told NRT that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is seeking a new presidency term for Massoud Barzani. The KDP party based on tribalism.

In January KDP officials told Rudaw that the parliamentary elections set for September in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region will probably be postponed because of persisting political disputes, economic hardships and the unfinished war with the Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Since October 2015 the Kurdistan parliament has been in recess after Kurdistan Parliament’s Speaker Yusuf Mohammad Sadiq was prevented from entering Erbil city on October 12, 2015 and Kurdistan PM Nechirvan Barzani has removed four members of his cabinet from the Change Movement and replaced them with KDP politicians.

The Kurdish opposition accused the Barzani and its KDP party of a monopoly all government’s positions in Erbil, and it does not believe in the principles of true partnership and and peaceful transfer of power.

Senior Iraqi Kurdish politician and the head of PUK Politburo, Mala Bakhtiar said in August 2016 most countries do not support Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence.

Up to 18 consulates from the European Union are not with the split of the Kurdistan Region from Iraq, member of the PUK leadership and lawmaker in the Iraqi Parliament, Arez Abdullah, said on Tuesday.

Kurdistan considered as the most corrupted part of Iraq. According to Kurdish lawmakers billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil revenues.

Senior KRG officials including Massoud Barzani have long been accused by the opposition and observers of corruption or taking government money.

Barzani has been accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Barzani’s son is the Kurdistan region’s intelligence chief and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister.

Kurds are often described as the world’s largest ethnic group without their own state, with populations divided among Turkey Iraq, Iran and Syria since after World War I.

Some are asking however whether the region is ready for independence as internal political disputes and a financial crisis have threatened to destabilize the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Kurdish leaders are also likely to face opposition from neighboring countries, including the central government in Baghdad.