Ever since the selected Speaker of the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament was prevented from entering the regional capital, Erbil, and going to his office in the parliament buildings there, Jafar Ibrahim Eminki has assumed that role.
Eminki is the Deputy Speaker in the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament but he is also the spokesperson for one of the semi-autonomous region’s largest political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP. This is also the party that Mohammed's party, the Change movement, fell out with.
When problems arose around the subject of who should be the President of the region, which has its own borders, military and legal system separate from the rest of Iraq, there was a split in a painstakingly-negotiated broad based, power-sharing government. This has seen two parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Change movement, withdraw to their areas of influence inside the region and the KDP stick to theirs, in Erbil.
All the members of the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament are unhappy with the damage being done to our reputation.
Since then business at the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament has been suspended.
Eminki spoke to NIQASH about whose fault this constitutional crisis was, why he has made disparaging remarks about many other politicians who do not agree with his party and whether there’s any hope that things may return to normal soon.
NIQASH: The Parliament here has not done any work for the past ten months. And parties in opposition to the KDP say that it is your fault that Parliament is suspended, mainly because of disagreements about who should be President. Is there no other option, other than this one?
Jafar Eminki: The current situation in the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament is not related to the Kurdish presidency. It has happened because of our political system which saw people who were not prepared to be MPs, and who did not have the right qualifications for it, enter Parliament as MPs. The other reason concerns those politicians who have tried to make this a populist cause and take the issue to the street; this too has disrupted Parliament.
NIQASH: At one stage, your party and the Change movement were able to agree enough, to enter into a broad-based, power-sharing government together. But that didn’t work out for very long.
Eminki: Differences of opinion are natural and healthy and they can make us stronger. But the problem was the way in which these differences played out. I was always wanting to resolve any differences in the least damaging way. I did everything I could to try and resolve these issues.
NIQASH: Do you regret taking the position you eventually did?
Eminki: Not at all. I regret nothing.
NIQASH: Do you think that the reputation of the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament has been damaged by all of this?
Eminki: Yes. And that continues. And its not just me. All the members of the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament are unhappy with the damage being done to our reputation.
NIQASH: Yousef Mohammed, the member of the Change movement who was nominated Speaker of the Parliament during your shared time in government, has recently visited several countries and has represented himself as Iraqi Kurdistan’s Speaker.
Eminki: Legally, practically and realistically he is not the Speaker of the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament any more. When he left the region, I told him the timing was wrong and that they would ask him questions he would find very difficult to answer, and that our problems would increase as a result of answers he had to give. That happened. And he has repeated those things several times. He actually referred to members of the Iraqi Kurdish military as a militia [by this, Eminki means Mohammed's references to troops loyal to the KDP in Erbil who kept him from entering the city]. I consider that unpatriotic.
NIQASH: Sometimes it feels as though you don’t like anybody. You have also made some remarks about Fakhraddin Qadir, the secretary of the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament.
Eminki: There are a number of conflicts with the Secretary, a member of the Islamic bloc here. He was biased and he always took the Change movement’s side. I knew that his point of view would align with the Speaker’s. He is just a follower. The KDP used to believe that the Islamic bloc was independent but it turned out not to be true. However we still have a relationship with him as he is a respected person in Kurdistan.
NIQASH: Recently there have been meetings between Iraqi Kurdish political parties. Do you feel that there’s some light on the horizon when it comes to solving this crisis?
Eminki: I have hope. And I think we should be optimistic about any attempts at resolution. As to how optimistic we should be, I have no idea.
NIQASH: Does the KDP actually want to resolve the political problems in Iraqi Kurdistan?
Eminki: Of course, and from the very roots of the problem up.
NIQASH: Should some kind of consensus be reached, will you continue on as the Deputy Speaker?
Eminki: Definitely not.
NIQASH: So you think Parliament may actually reconvene this year?
Eminki: When a new political consensus is formed, Parliament will reconvene. If Parliament does not repeat the mistakes of the past, then Parliament could carry on.