Baghdad: Masoud Barzani, the President of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan has told a closed-door session of Parliament that he will step down from his post on November 1, the media reported.
“I refuse to continue the position of President of the Kurdish region after November 1,” Xinhua reported citing Rudaw Kurdish media which quoted a letter sent by Barzani on Sunday to the regional parliament session held in Erbil.
“Changing the law on the presidency of Kurdistan or prolonging the presidential term is not acceptable,” Barzani said.
He said that a meeting must be held as soon as possible so that “there will be no legal vacuum in the duties of the president of the region”.
However, Barzani pledged to continue his long mission as a Peshmerga “to sacrifice and struggle for the rights and demands of our people as well as preserve the achievements of our people”, the letter read.
Barzani set November 1 as the date for stepping down and asked the parliament to vote on distributing the legal, military and administrative powers of the president to the regional government, parliament and the judiciary.
The parliament continued its session after Barzani’s letter and voted in favor of choosing the current regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani for Commander-in-Chief of Kurdish regional forces.
Masoud Barzani’s president post has sparked controversy, as his tenure was originally expired in 2013, but the Kurdish parliament extended his term to August 2015, but because of the blitzkrieg, or lighting war, of the Islamic State (IS), Barzani remained in office.
The Kurdish parliament initially set November 1 a date for parliamentary and presidential elections in Kurdistan region and the ethnically mixed disputed areas claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds.
However, on October 24, the parliament postponed the regional presidential and parliamentary elections for eight months after the Iraqi security forces took control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province and most of the disputed areas.
Barzani, 71, a veteran Kurdish leader, took over the post of president of the regional government in 2005. However, Barzani’s post has sparked controversy, as his tenure expired on Aug. 19, 2015. He is also leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party since 1979.
On October 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also Commander-in-Chief of Iraqi forces, ordered government forces to enter the oil-rich Kirkuk province in northern Iraq to regain control of the ethnically-mixed disputed areas.
The Kurds consider the northern Kirkuk province and parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salahudin provinces as disputed areas and want them to be incorporated into their region, a move fiercely opposed by the Arabs and Turkmens in the region as well as the Iraqi central government.
Tensions have been running high between Baghdad and the region of Kurdistan after the Kurds held a controversial referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan region and the disputed areas.