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Kurdistan Islamic Group in talks to join KDP-led government - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Female Kurdish deputies are pictured outside the Kurdistan parliament building in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on November 6, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED)

Female Kurdish deputies are pictured outside the Kurdistan parliament building in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on November 6, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Kurdistan Islamic Group is in talks with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to form a government in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region following September’s parliamentary elections, the group’s leader, Ali Bapir, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday.

The KDP, led by Kurdistan region president Massoud Barzani, were the big winners in the elections, winning nearly 40 percent of the vote and securing a total of 38 seats.

For the first time, the KRG competed against its traditional coalition partners, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The PUK, led by absent Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, saw a sharp reversal in its electoral fortunes, losing out to Kurdistan’s Gorran (Movement for Change) for second place.

Given the Kurdistan region’s new political balance, many analysts are expecting the KDP to ally with Gorran to form a new government, potentially sidelining the PUK.

Gorran won 24 seats in the September elections. Sixty-two seats are needed to form a government, meaning that a KDP-Gorran alliance could conceivably be enough to form the next government.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Bapir affirmed that the Kurdistan Islamic Group “wants to participate in a government that works for reform and deals with the accumulated mistakes made by previous governments.” He added that the group would like to see a government of institutions which guarantees the rights and liberties of its citizens.

“The KDP appears to be serious about reforms, which are demanded by most political forces in the region, and Barzani had real desire to form a strong government,” he said.

He added: “It is natural for the first-place winner in the elections, which is the KDP, to hold discussions with other parties to form a government, as it failed to win an outright majority that would allow it to form a government on its own.”

Bapir confirmed that he has held meetings with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the deputy leader of the KDP, who has been tasked with forming a new government.

Nechirvan Barzani arrived in Suleimaniyah earlier this week to hold the first round of talks regarding forming the next government.

He said: “We listened clearly to the vision of the KDP, who assured us this government will be different to the previous one, and that it will be serious in combating corruption and adhering to the law, forming a government based on institutions.”

In an inclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Bapir said that the Kurdistan Islamic Group had outlined its conditions for joining any future government. He said that this included “active participation by all political forces in the region at all government levels, and the adherence to the law without discrimination between people on any basis, especially on the basis of party affiliation.”

He added that his group has formed a special committee to discuss this issue, and it will decide whether the Kurdistan Islamic Group will agree to join a KDP-led government or not in the future.

Bapir said: “The Kurdistan Islamic Group will not participate in a government which stands idly by in the face of the problems besetting the region and is incapable of taking decisions to resolve crises.”

He also said that he did not agree with the idea of government participation being based on a party’s history of struggle for freedom. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I do not think that this idea is in line with our aspirations today, and it is the same for other parties, such as the Kurdistan Socialist Party and the Islamic Movement and others.”

He added that participation should be based on the number of parliamentary seats won by each party, saying: “According to the number of seats won, we will clearly have a smaller share of the government given that we only won six seats. Therefore, I confirm our adherence to the election rules, but if there are enough government portfolios for everybody who won seats, then we have no objection.”

Bapir said: “We do not expect Barzani to establish new portfolios to please other parties,” adding, “Real participation [in government] is not linked to a senior position of a senior ministry, it is the program which is the more important.”

He also did not hide the fact that his group could take the decision to withdraw from any future government if it failed to deliver on its promises.