PEREGRAF– Farman Sadiq
The Kurdistan Region parliament’s fifth term in its last year was described as "the weakest" by a monitoring group, and MPs criticized their fellow lawmakers for doing the government’s bidding by prioritizing bills that are in the interest of their leaders.
"The government looks at parliament as a ministry or a directorate, it gives parliament legal legitimacy for what they want, but any monitoring permission has been taken away from parliament and parliamentarians," Ashna Abdullah, an MP from Change (Gorran) party told Peregraf.
Abdullah believes the Kurdistan Region parliament has not been able to play its role in resolving important issues - issues concerning budgets and salaries, monitoring the government, or even law-making.
Although her formerly opposition party is now a part of the government, she said most of the bills that were approved were the government’s or from parties that are in the government, noting the reports given to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) by parliament were also overlooked.
"Parliamentarians investigate and give the reports to the parliament presidency, it is then sent to the government, but no report has had an outcome or has been answered," she said.
According to Abdullah, MPs often have to wait for an answer from the government for a full year, while they must receive it within 21 days.
A report published on December 20 by Pay Institute in Kurdish and Arabic, which monitors and evaluates the parliament’s performance, has further criticized the Kurdistan Region parliament, particularly calling the fifth term of parliament "the weakest" that has the least influence and outcome on important issues. The report has also included that parliament is not where the political parties go for a consultation, and the laws they pass are not implemented by the government.
The institute adds that there are parliamentarians in this term that "did not talk at all" during sessions, and that MPs have spoken for a minimum of 12 seconds and a maximum of 46 minutes.
Parliament has passed the least amount of laws, according to the report, and laws that have been passed are not of importance, while parliament has not addressed the government's non-implementation of laws and disregard for invitations from parliament.
Twenty-nine parliamentarians have called for the interpellation of the council of ministers in parliament sessions 14 times, but only five ministers were present, the report explained.
Abubakr Haladani, an MP from the opposition Islamic Union (KIU) party, says the fifth round of parliament has not performed its duties in terms of lawmaking, monitoring and resolving the salary issues, the performance of parliamentary committees "are not good enough, although they hold meetings, the meetings are fruitless."
Haladni, an MP of seven years, told Peregraf that the performance of parliament has been steadily going down. "Parliament, like all other institutions in the Kurdistan Region, has been disabled, that’s why it has not been able to do or change anything," he said.
Haladni has criticized the Kurdistan Region's way of governance and believes the lack of decision-makers, experienced and competent people in the parliament’s presidency are the reason why they haven’t been able to monitor the government.
"I thought it was important to pass the law on human development and education for all centers, amend the law of public prosecutor and executive authority, the intervention of regional countries and the airstrikes of Kurdistan, which has not been done because priority was given to governmental projects, the majority of parliament do what they want - and the [laws] that have been passed, were not implemented by the government," he said.
Criticism of parliament’s presidency is also mentioned in the Pay Institute report, saying that they committed the most violations of law and during the parliament sessions.
"I held meetings for 70 hours only with the advisory board," said the speaker of parliament, Rewaz Fayaq on December 22 in response to those criticisms, without naming the organization.
"You are good and quality MPs, continue your work. You work as a parliamentarian in circumstances that are different from any other situation," she added.
Peshawar Hawrami, spokesman for the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Kurdistan Region parliament, believes that what is being done in parliament now is adequate. "Good work has been done and very good bills were passed into, so there is nothing I can say I am unsatisfied with," he told Peregraf.
Hawrami admits monitoring the government is easier for KDP-affiliated MPs rather than for others, “we don’t need parliament procedure for many things, we talk to our ministers directly on the phone and we receive answers."
The institute in its report calls for a 10 percent closed list participation in the next elections so that experts and specialists can be sent to parliament by their parties.
Hawrami added the circumstances might not always be to everyone’s liking "But I’m happy with this term of parliament to a good extent because very important bills have been passed into laws."
"I am proud of the laws passed; the law on reform, drugs and the protection of local products, and the bill that is still in discussion is the weapon law," he noted.
The Kurdistan Parliament has 111 members, 19 committees and eight offices in cities and towns, along with 700 employees.
"People are not satisfied with the parliament not in this term nor the previous one, because the executive authority does not want anyone to question them, and it does not want a powerful parliament," said Omar Gulpi, a member of parliament from the opposition Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal).
"I’m happy with Komal. We have done everything a parliamentarian should do, but because people are not satisfied with parliament, we are not satisfied as well and the reason is because of the majority in parliament," Gulpi added, referring to the majority that is affiliated with the ruling parties.
Gulpi noted that three percent of parliament has not been able to monitor the government, which he blamed both MPs and the presidency for.
The presidency, the executive authority and "even the parliamentarians themselves are the reason because there are parliamentarians that act like lawyers for the government inside the parliament and thank them instead of monitoring the government's work,” he said.
Decreasing the number of parliament seats by half, reforming MPs’ salaries are among other recommendations from the Pay Institute.
MP salaries, with a membership fund of the committees, reach 8.2 million dinars per month, in addition to the expenses of 45 consultants and 700 employees.
Shirin Younis, an MP from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the ruling party in Sulaimaniyah, admits that there were obstacles, but believes despite those also “good laws" have been passed, "We don’t take pride in this, we have done our duty," she said.
Younis brought an example of a bill about supervising agricultural projects, which provides jobs for 5,000 graduates of the agricultural and veterinary industry. She added that it is not the legislative body’s responsibility "to change some things" and said those who think so "are exaggerating and fooling people."
The MP added that there were "no obstacles and it was made easy” but said "some parliamentarians are careless and some do not want to investigate … otherwise neither the party nor the government will prevent them."
The fifth term of parliament that was elected in September 2018, is in its last year and a new parliament will be elected this year.