Monday, May 2, 2011

Opposition forces to take legal action against government for budget cut

Demonstrations SulaymaniyahErbil, May 1 (AKnews) – Opposition forces say they plan to go to court over the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) decision to cut the parties' budgets after they supported protests that hit the Region's second largest city, Sulaimaniya.

Last week, two Islamic opposition parties, Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) and Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), said their budget had been cut, and a week previously, another opposition group, Gorran, also said their budget had been reduced.

Political parties in Kurdistan receive funding from the government to carry out their activities.

The budget cuts came after the opposition groups put the full force of their support behind anti-government protests that raged for 65 days from 17 February and left 10 protesters dead and hundreds injured.

The demonstrators, inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia, were pushing for an end to corruption, nepotism and the monopoly of power by the two ruling parties Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The protests evolved and later called for a complete dissolution of the government in the region.

A representative for Gorran, Yousef Mohammed, said he was stunned by the budget cut decision: "If the government refuses to reconsider its decision, then we will take legal action to restore our budget.
"The PUK and KDP each continue to receive IQD6 billion (about US$5.1 million) every month, we believe that our budget cut is a political decision by the KDP and PUK, playing their hand to apply pressure."

Mr Mohamed went on to accuse the ruling parties of operating their media outlets from the general budget.

Gorran with 25 seats in the 111-seat Kurdish parliament received, before the funding cut, IQD580m ($500,000), while the PUK, led by the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, with 29 seats, and the KDP, led by regional President Massoud Barzani, each receive the radically greater sum of IQD6 bn ($5.1 m).

The government has also cut KIU's IQD450 million (around US$370,000) budget. The party has six seats in the Kurdish parliament

Member of the KIU politburo Abubakr Ali, said: "I think this budget cut has nothing to do with the law, but with the KRG which is formed by the KDP and PUK.

"Cutting our budget is like punishing us for being an opposition force in the Kurdish region. It is only pressure. It is our right to seek restoration of the budget by any means"

In place of a proper parties budget law the Kurdish Parliament passed the 2010 budget under which a temporary sum of IQD90 billion (US$75 million) was allocated to political parties and organizations.

The parties' budget law has yet to be discussed by parliament.

Under the current system budgets are arbitrarily allocated and do not relate to the number of seats or votes. Some small groups like the Kurdistan Communist Party, which has one seat in parliament, receive the same allocation as Gorran with 25 seats.

KDP member of parliament, Rozhan Dizayee, told AKnews that the Region's 2011 budget provides for allocating some IQD200 billion (about US$ 167 million) to political parties. But the parliament has not been able to discuss the political parties' budget law as the opposition forces have been boycotting the ordinary parliamentary sessions, said Dizayee.

Due to the government's violent repression of demonstrations, opposition forces have refused to attend ordinary meetings saying the parliament should only hold emergency meetings to discuss the demands of the protesters.

The demonstrators were demanding that the government be completely dissolved and a transitional government set up to prepare early elections in six months.
But a real factor contributing to the postponement of the parties' budget law has been the dispute over how to allocate budget.

Some parties want funds to be provided according to the votes a party gets in parliamentary elections, others want the number of seats be considered, while some smaller groups say armed struggle for the freedom of Kurdistan before 1991, when the region gained semi-autonomy, be a factor for budget allocation.

Sherwan Haidari, head of the legal committee in the parliament, said: "If the number of seats criterion is adopted, then parties who have few seats will be affected, while considering the number of votes in elections those parties who did not get considerable votes and are outside parliament will be affected."

The conflict around this issue shows no signs of being resolved in the near future.

Writing by Raber Y. Aziz, Hevidar Ahmed contributed to this story. Edited Patrick Smith.

01/05/2011 13:19