The Presidency issue is already creating further trouble between the Kurdish parties. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), whose members have held the presidency until now — with former PUK leader, Jalal Talabani, serving as President from 2005 until 2014, and then Fuad Masoum taking over in 2014 — are adamant that they should retain the post.
However, many in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) believe it is their party’s turn to take on the role. As a result there are several names being touted as possible candidates, with the nominees drawn from both parties.
Among those whose names are being talked about is the current Kurdish Prime Minister, Nejervan Barzani. It seems unlikely, however, that he would accept such a post given his power at the centre of Kurdish politics. Although still important, the Iraqi Presidency is more of a ceremonial position and, because Nejervan Barzani has come out of these elections stronger than ever before, it is doubtful that he would agree to what would effectively be a reduction in his power by accepting the Presidency.
The name of Fuad Hussein — who is also from the KDP, and who is head of the Kurdish President’s diwan — has also been touted. Hussein has good relations with Baghdad and is known for being a powerful figure behind the scenes in the Kurdish region. As such, he stands a chance of becoming president. The other KDP member also being suggested is Fadil Mirani, who is secretary of the KDP and is also powerful. He is currently in Baghdad, leading the discussions with the various alliances there. According to some Kurds, he is the most likely KDP member to be given the post.
As far as the PUK is concerned, the main candidate is still Fuad Masoum. According to some sources, Masoum’s decision not to sign off on the 2018 Budget Law was his way of appearing to be taking a tough stance in defending Kurdish interests so as to ensure his re-election. The other name in the fray is Barham Salah. Although he has good relations with Baghdad and is considered to be more than competent, his antagonism with the PUK indicates that the party would never agree to his being put forward.
As such, the post could still go to any candidate. However, if the Kurds do retain the Presidency, there is going to be a major struggle between the main parties over who should get the position. If the KDP decides to allow the PUK to hold onto the job, then the PUK is going to have to make a whole series of concessions in return. Indeed, the issue is likely to raise tensions even further.