Federalism First: Debate about What the Iraq of Tomorrow Will Look like Is Ongoing and Likely to Continue for Some Time. the Kurds Put Forward a Draft Constitution Last Year. Chris Kutschera Talked to Several PUK and KDP Politicians about Their Aspirations and the Chances of Achieving Them. (Kurds)

Article excerpt

The main issue, for the Kurds, is their status in the future Iraq. For once unanimous, the Kurdish political parties conceive only one solution: federalism. "Now we are independent, and we are asking for reunification. Federation is the only solution," claims the PUK's Berham Saleh. Anxious not "to be left behind by the train," as Massoud Barzani puts it, the KDP put forward a draft constitution for Iraq and for the Kurdish region last autumn. Written by Kurdish constitutional law experts, this 15-page document lays down very clearly the relations foreseen between the Kurdish region and the central government.

Item one of the text, General Principles of Federalism for Iraq, declares: "Iraq is a federal state with a republican, democratic, parliamentarian and multi-party system called the Federal Republic of Iraq."

The envisioned republic will consist of two regions. The Arab region embracing central and southern Iraq, along with the provinces of Mosul and Nineveh in the north, but excluding some districts.

The proposed Iraqi Kurdistan region includes the provinces of Kirkuk, Suleimania and Erbil, within the administrative boundaries in place prior to 1968, and the province of Dohuk, the sub-district of Zimar in the province of Nineveh, the districts of Khanakin and Mandili in the province of Diyala, and the district of Badra in the province of Al Wasit. "The geographic boundaries of the region shall be delineated in the Federal Constitution," concludes this section of the draft.

The anticipated federal republic will have a president, a judicial authority and a legislative body composed of two chambers. The National Federal Assembly, elected on a proportional basis and an Assembly of the Regions, made up of members drawn in equal numbers from the two regional assemblies. On the council of ministers, a prime minister and a number of additional ministers will represent the two regions in proportion to the total population of the Federal Republic of Iraq. Each of the two regions will have its own legislative assembly, regional president, council of ministers and court system.

Four aspects of the Kurdish draft constitution are eye-catching. Item 14 states that: "On the occasion of the election of the president of the Federal Republic of Iraq from one of the regions, then the prime minister of the Federal Republic of Iraq shall be from the other region." In other words, if the president of the federal republic is an Arab, the prime minister will automatically be a Kurd.

After declining for decades to play a political role in Baghdad, the Kurds have finally understood that they must first exert power in Baghdad if they are ever to do it in their home regions.

Item seven of the text specifies that members of government will be selected proportionally to the respective importance of the Arab and Kurdish populations in the federal republic. "Clearly," comments a KDP leader, "it means the Kurds shall have at least one of the three most powerful ministries --defence, interior or finance.

Meanwhile, item five of the draft constitution states explicitly: "Kirkuk shall be the capital of the Kurdistan region," an article which provoked outrage from Turkey.

Finally, item 75 notes: "The structure of the entity and the political system of the Federal Republic of Iraq cannot be changed without the consent of the Kurdistan Regional Assembly. …