Iraq’s Federal Court on Sunday ordered the dissolution of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) provincial councils, which have been in office for five years. The decision was based on the expiration of their electoral mandate and the failure to hold new elections.
The provincial councils of Erbil (Hewler), Suleymaniyah (Silêmanî) and Duhok (Dihok), which were originally elected for a four-year term, have been in office since 2014. With their terms officially over, new elections were originally scheduled for 2018, but were postponed indefinitely.
Despite the delay, these councils continued to function under an earlier amendment passed by the Kurdistan parliament in 2019, which extended their term until the next round of elections and changed the method of electing governors. Today’s ruling invalidated this amendment, with the court declaring the extension ‘unconstitutional’.
Notably, Erbil Governor Omid Khoshnaw and Duhok Governor Ali Tatar were not part of the provincial councils before 2018; they were appointed governors during the extended term.
Journalist Fehim Işık told Medya News that the Kurdistan Regional Government is now considering how to respond to the court’s decision. However, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been left without a functioning legislative body since May due to disputed parliamentary elections. This impasse has prevented the parties from taking collective decisions or convening parliament.
“Every decision is a step further in the process of division,” said Işık, comparing the political turmoil in Kurdistan to a dark tunnel.
The federal court also ruled that the local councils had been receiving illegal salaries for the past five years. These funds must now be returned to the national treasury.
It is reported that the councils received substantial salaries during the extended period, amounting to around 10 million dinars ($7,660) per day. As a result, these salaries are considered debts to the public treasury that must be repaid.
In Erbil, the provincial council has 30 members, while Sulaimani has 32 and Duhok has 28. The provincial council of Sulaimaniyah has already expressed its commitment to abide by the court’s decision.
The key ruling stemmed from a complaint filed against the provincial councils by the New Generation Movement, an Iraqi Kurdish political party founded in 2017 during the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum.
The electoral dilemma of Kurdistan
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has already had to deal with the dilemma of parliamentary elections. Last year, parliamentary elections were postponed due to disagreements between the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), over critical issues such as electoral laws, taxation and the distribution of oil revenues.
In order to facilitate the ongoing negotiations, the two parties opted to extend the term of parliament until October 2022.
On 30 May, however, an Iraqi federal court declared the extension of the Kurdistan parliament’s mandate illegal and the parliament was dissolved.
All decisions taken by the Kurdistan parliament during the extension period were declared null and void by the court’s ruling.