Thursday, June 25, 2009

Parliament approves regional Constitution

Amendments allowed for when disputed areas join Kurdistan Region

By Ako Muhammed
The Kurdish Globe

The Kurdistan Region Parliament on Wednesday agreed, with the majority of votes, on the region’s long-awaited Constitution, which includes disputed areas, including Kirkuk, as part of the region.

Kurdistan Region Parliament Speaker Adnan Mufti, who described voting on the Constitution as “a historical day,” announced that Parliament will work with the electoral commission to hold a public referendum on the Constitution along with the parliamentary and presidential elections on July 25.

Out of Parliament’s 111 members, 97 attended the session and 96 voted in favor of passing the Constitution, which comprises 122 articles and regards disputed areas including Kirkuk as “historical and geographical part of Kurdistan Region.”

“This is a historical day as the people of Kurdistan take steps to become owners of a Constitution. It is a day stepping forward to legitimize the community and its individuals, and to establish a civil society,” said Mufti during a press conference after the session. He added that this Constitution, after it is voted for by the people of Kurdistan Region, will become a defender of human rights and of Kurdistan people’s rights.

“Iraqi Kurdistan is a geographic and historical entity; it consists of Duhok province with the current administrative borders, also the provinces of Kirkuk, Suleimaniya, and Erbil, the towns of Akre, Shekhan, Sinjar, Telkif, Qaraqushn, sub-districts of Zumar, Bashiqa, and Aski Kalak of Ninewa province as well as the towns of Khanaqin and Mandali of Diyala Province--all of them according to the administrative borders of before 1968,” reads Article II of the Constitution.
It also recognizes the Kurdistan Region ethnic components as Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, Chaldian, Assyrians, Syriacs, Armenians, and others.

Mufti explained that the project had been reported to the media, and 8,000 copies of it had been distributed to political parties and NGOs. It was shown on Parliament’s official website for anyone to see and any side to report their notes about.

“More than 5,000 notes and letters have been sent to the parliament’s committing of constitution drafting. Most of the notes were taken into consideration,” said the speaker. “The Constitution is feasible to be amended when Parliament considers it necessary, and it will be amended after the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution,” which is about normalizing situations in disputed areas and deciding on whether to be joined to Kurdistan Region via a referendum. Amending the Kurdistan Constitution in the future will require two-thirds of the vote.

“Ratifying the Constitution was not hastened…some think that passing the Constitution at this time falls to the benefit of the region’s presidency, Parliament, and government; but indeed it is to the contrary. The Constitution limits the authority of those three presidencies,” stated Mufti, trying to answer voices in the region that question why Parliament wants the Constitution passed before the coming elections.

Seven members, candidates and supporters of the Goran (Change) electoral list, had pulled out of the session before the vote in a protest that Parliament’s legislature mandate had ended by June 4 and no longer has the legal authority to pass such a crucial project. One these members, Kwestan Muhammed, told the Aswat al-Iraq news agency, “Parliament has lost legislature mandate since June 4 and it cannot ratify the Constitution, which is an important document and source of the laws. We Parliament members—how can we vote for a Constitution that we received its draft 24 hours earlier and without allowing us to discuss it?” she added.

The Goran list, which is led by Kurdistan Patriotic Union’s (PUK) former second leader, Nawshirwan Mustafa, announced earlier that they would not accept any law issued by Parliament at the current time because of the expired legislature mandate.

Meanwhile, members of four parties who will run together for the next elections as one of the competing lists under the name of “Service and Reform” have accepted the Constitution without objection. This list involves the Kurdistan Islamic Union, Islamic Group in Kurdistan, Socialist Democratic Party of Kurdistan, and Kurdistan Tailors parties.

“Fortunately, whole blocs inside Parliament, with its all diverse ethnicities of Kurds, Turkmen, and Assyrians, and all the religious ones of Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis have members that accepted the Constitution,” said Zana Rostayee, member of the Islamic Group in Kurdistan, speaking for his party’s official website. “Each of the components can find themselves in this Constitution and find a number of articles and items that guarantee their rights,” he added.