5 Reasons why the KRG Cabinet has not yet been formed

By Kamal Chomani and Sarkawt Shams:

KRG parliament

KRG parliament

As expected the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) new cabinet formation is taking a long time. As of today, 172 days have passed since the election was held on September 21, 2103, yet no date has been appointed for parliament to resume its sessions. There are five main reasons behind the long delay. Five major political parties are the winners of the elections, but no single political party has got an outright majority. The Kurdistan Parliament seats are distributed among them as follows: Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) 38 seats, Gorran Movement 24 seats, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) 18 seats, Islamic Union 10 seats and Islamic Group of Kurdistan 6 seats. Despite several meetings and talks for over 5 months there is still no resolution.

1. Ministry of Interior, The Core of the Dispute

Before, all eyes were on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Finance, with the oil and the money. Now, apparently, the Ministry of the Interior has become everyone’s favorite. It is now the main obstacle in the way of forming the new government since three major parties – KDP, PUK and Gorran – are not compromising in their pursuit of this ministry. At the beginning of the negotiations this ministry was seen to be Gorran’s share, because Gorran had agreed the PUK could keep the Deputy Premier post; but soon Masoud Barzani, the KDP’s president, sent Azad Barwari from the KDP politburo to meet Nawshirwan Mustafa, Gorran’s leader, in order to convince him to accept the Ministry of Finance or of Peshmerge as a substitute.

There are four sovereign ministries of the KRG which should be distributed according to the seats that the political parties won: these are the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Peshmerge. The assumptions were: the Ministry of Natural Resources and Pesmerge for the KDP, Finance for the PUK and the Interior for Gorran. The PUK soon rejected Finance and asked for the option of either Peshmerge or Interior. The KDP is ready to give Peshmerge to the PUK, but only if Gorran gives up its claim on the Interior ministry.

What is so special about the Ministry of Interior?

The Ministry of Interior is considered as a government within the government due to its vast authority within the political system. The Ministry of the Interior is the crucial law enforcement agency in Kurdistan, responsible for enforcing all of the laws and regulations approved by parliament. The Ministry is accountable for court orders and the attorney general’s decisions. It is in charge of bringing the accused and fugitives to justice and, according to its own data, there are more than two thousand wanted individuals in Kurdistan. The KDP may have fears of any future plan by Gorran to bring to justice those who are accused of firing on or ordering the shooting of the protesters in Sulaimani on February 2011. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for appointing mayors and chiefs of police to the cities and towns and also for changing them. It is also within this ministry’s jurisdiction to allow demonstrations or ban them. Even though all of the security forces are politicized in Kurdistan, the police are the most organized security force with a legal status, since the Asayish and Anti-Terror are more partisan forces. All of the police officers and commissioners go through intensive academic training which is recognized by the Iraqi Government and international organizations and even the United States Government.

The Ministry of Interior’s forces are the only forces in Kurdistan recognized by the United States of America  as a systemized and legal force. Therefore, the Department of State has provided multiple training courses to the police in Kurdistan since 2003, both inside Kurdistan and in the USA. There are still special programs that have been funded by the United States to take police officers to the US to be trained at FBI academies. No other security forces in Kurdistan have ever enjoyed the Department of State’s funding like the police have. Moreover, the other international organizations such the UN and EU have also provided training to the police only. The status of the Asayish and Peshmerge is unclear and neither of them own an academic institution recognized by Iraqi government.

2. Strategic Agreement

The Strategic Agreement between the KDP and PUK is one of the main reasons for the delay in forming the new cabinet since this Agreement has not been completely dissolved. According to the agreement, the cabinet positions between the KDP and PUK should in theory be shared on a 50-50 basis.

The PUK wants the agreement to continue, arguing that they agreed to extending Masoud Barzani’s presidential term for another two years in accordance with it; otherwise Barzani would not have been able to stay in his position.

On the other hand, the opposition parties are asking for the distribution of the positions according to the seats that each party won, something the PUK considers as harmful to its strength in domestic and regional politics. The KDP wants to keep the strategic agreement with the PUK alive, but not at the expense of the KDP’s share. It is not in the nature of the KDP to compromise, especially when it is considered to be the main winner of the election.

3. Iran and Turkey, Chess Players

Another serious barrier is Iran and Turkey’s interventions, since both seeking to put their allies in the government and guarantee them the influential positions.

Iran is worried about the weakened state of the PUK following the elections and also worried that Gorran may not help Iran to protect its interests in the KRG, Iraq and the region in the same way as the PUK has done. Iran also is very much concerned about a government which may bring Gorran and the KDP closer to Turkey.

Turkey, on the other hand, wants a government that secures the region so as to continue its oil deals and its 15 billion USD investment in the region. Therefore, Turkey wants a broad-based government. Turkey is certain that the KRG’s new cabinet may bring in other forces that may not be as close to it as the KDP, but Turkey needs to maintain its good relations with the KRG so as to win more oil benefits. The recent visit by Davut Auglo to Nawshirwan Mustafa showed that Turkey is serious about continuing its relations with the KRG, no matter which party rules. Turkey’s official invitation to Nawshirwan Mustafa shows that Turkey has understood that the political shape of the KRG has changed.

4. KDP’s internal Conflicts

Another reason is the KDP’s internal conflicts. The KDP politburo had officially appointed Nechirvan Barzani as its candidate to form the new government and lead the negotiation team. It seems that the KDP’s internal conflicts have obstructed further development in the talks between the KDP and others. Therefore, the KDP has now formed two different teams to negotiate with Gorran and the PUK: Nechirvan Barzani wants Gorran’s participation, even if it costs the Ministry of Interior; while the other bloc, considered to be Masrour Barzani’s bloc, works hard to marginalize Gorran’s participation in the government and keep it away from Kurdistan’s Security file. So, Gorran has received two different messages from the KDP’s delegations: the one supervised by Nechirvan seems to be more optimistic, while Masrour Barzani’s team, supervised by Azad Barwari, is less forthcoming. Masrour Barzani who is head of the Kurdistan National Security Council, is concerned about Gorran’s attempt to take the Ministry of Interior position because he sees this as harmful to his jurisdiction within the KDP (for example, he is in charge of appointing all of the mayors in the KDP’s control zone and, if Gorran takes this ministry position, it will be very difficult for him to do this anymore).

5. PUK Leadership Crisis

Last but not least is the PUK’s leadership crisis, which makes the decision-making process almost impossible. Without Talabani, the PUK leaders are so desperate about the future of their party and its legacy because there is no clear article within its rules to delegate Talalbani’s authority to his deputies, Kosrat Rasul and Barham Salih. It appears that first lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, who is also on the PUK politburo, is the real practitioner of Talabani’s authority now and she has marginalized the role of Talabani’s deputies. Even Iran’s direct intervention in this crisis didn’t help; as a result of it, Barham Salih suspended his position as deputy secretary general of the PUK. On the other hand, the PUK has not yet recovered from the election shock of losing its position as the major partner in the dominant parliament fraction. The PUK wants to heal its wounds by keeping a share in the government that is larger than its real position. Its leaders have announced clearly that they want the ‘Strategic Agreement’ to be implemented, which means the KDP-PUK 50-50 policy.


It is most likely that KRG’s new cabinet formation will be delayed until May 2014, after the Iraqi national election and the Kurdistan provincial election. The KDP’s current position within the government can be seen as its honeymoon, since there is no parliamentary monitoring of its actions and the PUK’s internal crisis has given it more opportunity to implement its policies independently, and the PUK is currently its de facto partner in the government and the sole ruler of the Sulaimani Province, while Gorran and the Islamic parties have an ambiguous status as neither the opposition nor the rulers. Therefore, the outcomes of the Iraqi parliament election and the Kurdistan provincial election will be added to the political parties’ negotiation table.


One Response to 5 Reasons why the KRG Cabinet has not yet been formed
  1. kurd
    March 11, 2014 | 15:10

    God willing a new corrupting KRG will be formed??

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL https://kurdistantribune.com/reasons-why-krg-cabinet-has-not-yet-been-formed/trackback/