With Iraq and Syria embroiling in bloodshed, the calamity is likely to deepen as Turkey officially entered the war by conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many analysts believe that Turkey’s main aim is to undermine the Kurdish gains in Syria, which will only benefit ISIS. Ironically, with the tenure of the Kurdistan region’s President, Masoud Barzani, coming to an end on August 20th, Kurdish political parties are caught in a divisive debate over the question of extending Barzani’s term and the constitutional structure of the executive — instead of focusing on the chaos.
On the one hand, the opposing parties stand against extending President Barzani’s term — arguing that it is unlawful because the Kurdish presidency law limits the president to two terms. Further, they want the next president to be elected by the members of parliament instead of popular vote.
On the other hand, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its allies advocate extending President Barzani’s tenure for another two years. They argue that Kurdistan is facing an existential threat and he is the only reliable figure that can lead the nation out of the turmoil.
The United States had a similar experience. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was elected as president to an unparalleled fourth term in office in 1944.
FDR reelected himself for a fourth term because the United States was in a state of “turmoil, World War II and the post-depression era.” He believed that it’s “his obligation to remain in office until Hitler had been defeated.” Simply, the American people needed a reliable figure to lead them out of crisis.
Comparably, the Kurdistan region is under a major threat: It is caught in a war with the most brutal jihadist terrorist group, ISIS, and is suffering from an economic depression caused by the financial blockade imposed by central government in Baghdad, not to mention the cost of financing the war.
Additionally, the Kurdistan region is under a constant threat from its powerful neighbors, Turkey and Iran, as they have a relatively large restive Kurdish population within their borders.
In essence, KDP’s argument is valid.
President Barzani’s track record as a man of peace and integrity — a leader who has spent his entire life standing against injustice — proves this notion. It is not a coincidence that he became runner-up for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2014.
Barzani is the only ruling president in the world who has spent months leading the war against ISIS in the battlefield — defending Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, and Arabs.
What’s more, President Barzani is the most prominent Kurdish figure that openly advocates an independent Kurdish state and believes that self-determination is not a privilege but rather a God-given right. This point was echoed in his recent speech about the issue of presidency on Sunday, August 9th.
Although the opposing parties are against extending his term, Barzani enjoys vast approval rating amongst the Kurdish mainstream. On an online poll conducted by NRT, an opposition media group, in June 2015 — out of nearly 150,000 participants, 85% favored extending his term. The outcome speaks volume.
Nevertheless, the opponents argue that serving more than two terms is undemocratic, and they often reference that the first American President, George Washington, stepped down after his second term; therefore, so should President Barzani.
Having said that, George Washington stepped down for personal reasons, not because he opposed it. In a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, Washington states, “I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public,”
Additionally, in a real democracy power must be in the hands of citizens. Hence, electing the president in parliament and imposing term-limits, takes power away from voters.
By the same token, some of the most advanced democracies in the world, such as Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Italy, and Belarus do not have term-limits. In fact, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in 2017.
All things considered, given the existential threat by the most brutal jihadist terrorist group, ISIS, the harsh economic conditions in the Kurdistan region, and his high approval ratings, Barzani should serve as president for another term to lead the Kurds out of the mayhem.
The Huffington Post