The president of Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region, Masoud Barzani, dissolved his powers as president Sunday, distributing them between the Kurdish prime minister, Parliament and the judiciary, a Kurdish official told The Associated Press. Barzani also informed parliament that he will not seek an extension of his term which is set to expire Nov. 1, Barzani’s senior assistant, Hemin Hawrami said.
The moves come just over a month after a controversial vote on support for independence from Iraq, spearheaded by Barzani. Hawrami said Barzani could remain in office if mandated to hold the post until the next Kurdish presidential elections are held. Kurdish presidential elections scheduled to be held in November have been postponed indefinitely. Hawrami added that no political party submitted candidates to run against Barzani. He added that Barzani did not “step down” and “will stay in Kurdish politics and lead the high political council.”
After reading the letter, parliament postponed their session for one hour to allow for further discussion. The referendum on support for independence held in September has since left the region increasingly isolated. Despite warnings from Baghdad, the United States, Turkey, Iran, the United Nations and others, the vote was held on September 25 in the three provinces that make up the autonomous Kurdish zone as well as in disputed territories claimed by Baghdad, but at the time held by Kurdish forces.
Within weeks, backlash from the referendum revealed it to have been an extraordinary miscalculation. The region lost nearly half of the territory that had been comfortably under Kurdish control for years, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The region’s airspace was closed to international commercial flights, Turkey threatened the use of military force and both Iran and Turkey threatened to close border crossings vital to the land-locked region.