The Kurdistan Region has made remarkable economic and diplomatic progress since 2007, achieving average yearly economic growth of 8% and negotiating the establishment of 28 new diplomatic representations in the Region. Such rapid growth has provided an important foundation for the international business community, which has successfully established itself in Kurdistan. Over the course of 2014, however, the KRG encountered two unexpected problems that proved to be extremely serious. Disagreements with Baghdad over the allocation of federal budgetary resources and ISIS terrorism dominated the political, diplomatic, and economic agenda of 2014. The question of how and when the KRG would be able to overcome those challenges loomed large, yet Kurdistan's political stability, security, democratic institutions, and confident foreign policy ended up paving the way for huge support to surmount these issues from its regional and global partners. Kurdistan also employed its vast hydrocarbon wealth for both economic and diplomatic ends in 2014, establishing itself as a major economic actor in its region and beyond.

Thanks to the help of the international coalition against ISIS terror that has formed over past year, Kurdistan's military forces, the Peshmerga, have been able to defeat the enemy and restore security along the borders of the Kurdistan Region.

Relations between Erbil and Baghdad have markedly improved under new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s conciliatory tenure. The warming of relations was most evident in the announcement at the end of 2014 of a landmark agreement between Baghdad and Erbil to restore the Kurdistan Region’s budget and begin collaborating in the field of oil exports. World leaders responded enthusiastically to the temporary settlement, which also committed Iraq’s federal government to $1 billion in funding for Peshmerga forces. Kurdish leaders have expressed their hope to reach a long-term agreement on budget and oil export issues in 2015.

In a year marked by the terrible human consequences of ISIS brutality, the Region also demonstrated its tolerant and maturing democratic culture to the international community by opening its doors to 1.5 million IDPs.

Structure

The Kurdistan Regional Government is the autonomous governing body of the Kurdistan Region, and holds constitutionally recognized authority over the governorates of Erbil, Duhok, and Slemani. Article 117 of the Iraqi Constitution recognizes Kurdistan as a federal region of Iraq, while Article 120 vests the Kurdistan Region with the power to draft its own constitution and establish accompanying authorities for governance. Kurdistan’s central legislative body is the Kurdistan Parliament, a 111-member, unicameral body of lawmakers. Iraq’s Constitution identifies the Peshmerga as the Kurdistan Region’s military force. The Constitution also gives the KRG authority to exercise legislative and executive authority in certain areas, including allocating the regional budget, security, education, and health policies, natural resources management, and infrastructure development.

The President of the Kurdistan Region is elected directly by the people of Kurdistan. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Peshmerga. The President, as established by the KP in 2005, is elected every four years and is legally restricted to serving two terms. The President appoints the Prime Minister from the largest bloc in Parliament to form a government. The cabinet is then approved by the Kurdistan Parliament. The President’s responsibilities include ratifying all laws approved by the Kurdistan Parliament and approving political appointments made by the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister. The KRG President has the authority to veto legislation only once, and, even then, legislation is merely sent back for continued debate and possible amendment.

Masoud Barzani is the current president of the Kurdistan Region. His term in office was extended by an act of the Kurdistan Parliament in 2013.

Additionally, the Kurdistan Region has an independent judicial system. It is headed by a Supreme Court of Cassation, which decides cases of the highest importance, as well as cases that have been appealed through lower courts. The system also has a number of lower courts that decide on commercial and criminal disputes.

Kurdistan Parliament

The Kurdistan Region is governed by a unicameral legislature, the Kurdistan Parliament, which considers new legislation, scrutinizes government activities and policy, and debates major issues before the Region. The Kurdistan Parliament was established in 1992 and has demonstrated its enduring commitment to the democratic tradition. A democratic and transparent legislative process, as carried out by the Kurdistan Parliament, provides a foundation for regional political stability and national cohesion.

Under regional electoral law, elections for the Kurdistan Parliament must be held every four years. The Kurdistan Parliament shares legislative authority with the Iraqi Council of Representatives in the areas of education, health policy, historic preservation, policing and internal security, transport, natural resource management, environmental policy, and tourism. The laws of the Kurdistan Region take precedent over federal legislation in issues involving customs, the distribution of electricity, internal water resources, and general planning. In addition, as per Article 115 of the Iraqi Constitution, all powers not explicitly reserved to the Iraqi federal government belong to Iraq’s regional authorities, including the Kurdistan Parliament. When regional laws contradict federal legislation outside areas specifically reserved for federal authorities in the Iraqi Constitution, the Kurdistan Parliament has the authority to amend the application of federal laws within the Kurdistan Region.

Members of the Kurdistan Parliament are elected through a system of proportional electoral representation. The Parliament houses 11 functional committees that oversee legislative issues within their purview. In addition to legislating Kurdistan’s laws and budget, the Parliament is also responsible for ratifying agreements with foreign entities and working with the federal government.

To encourage diversity, 11 seats in the Kurdistan Parliament are automatically assigned to parties representing minority groups in Kurdistan. Five seats are allocated to Turkoman representatives, five to Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac representatives, and one to the Armenian community. In addition, a legal minimum quota is in place to ensure that women hold at least 30% of the seats in Parliament.

Political Parties

  • Kurdistan Democratic Party
  • Gorran Movement
  • Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
  • Kurdistan Islamic Union
  • Kurdistan Islamic Group
  • Islamic Movement of Kurdistan
  • Socialist Democratic Party
  • Kurdistan Communist Party
  • Toilers Party
  • Turkoman Development List
  • Erbil Turkoman List
  • Turkoman Change and Reform List
  • Turkoman Movement List
  • Rafidain List
  • Chaldean, Assyrian, & Syriac Alliance
  • Abna Rafidain List
  • Barwan Isan Mergoz Batros

Foreign Relations

The KRG’s dynamic foreign relations are crucial and integral components of the Kurdistan Region’s economic and social development. Political stability and a rapidly developing economy have given the KRG the opportunity to pursue an energetic and broad foreign policy. The KRG’s primary body for directing its foreign affairs is the Department of Foreign Relations (DFR). The DFR’s foremost objectives are to raise the global profile of the Kurdistan Region, improve the Region’s international ties with various governments and international organizations, and present the emerging opportunities in the Kurdistan Region to regional and international actors.

The KRG’s foreign policy vision has paved the way for the establishment of various diplomatic representations in Kurdistan. A total of 28 countries have a diplomatic presence in Erbil. Multinational bodies, including the EU, UN, ICRC, Japan International Cooperation Agency, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency, also have offices in Kurdistan. This significant diplomatic presence demonstrates the confidence that foreign governments place in the Kurdistan Region.

Kurdistan is determined to work closely with its regional and international partners in order to contribute stability, security, and prosperity to the region. The head of the DFR, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, sees two main foreign policy priorities for Kurdistan in 2015. “First, we will make concerted efforts to ensure further and continued engagement by the international community in the fight against ISIS in order to restore peace and stability and dismantle extremists in the region,” he says. “Second, in line with the Iraqi constitution, we will continue with our open door foreign policy and will try to broaden our ties with countries across the globe through establishing bilateral relations.” In accordance with its policy of open door diplomacy, the KRG has been able to forge strong ties with its neighbors in recent years. Moving into the future, the KRG intends to maintain a dynamic foreign policy based on developing good relations with its neighbors and resolving issues through dialogue. This will allow Kurdistan to strengthen its ability to develop prosperous relationships with foreign capitals throughout the world.

The outpouring of support from the international community, increasing cooperation between Erbil and Baghdad on oil exports, budgetary issues, and military strategy, and a growing sense of momentum behind Peshmerga forces on the battlefield against ISIS are stoking hopes that 2015 will be a year when the Kurdistan Region consolidates its reputation for growth and stability while reaching out to new partners in the international community.

KRG Offices Worldwide

Diplomatic Missions

Consulate Generals
China, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Palestine, Russia, Turkey, UK, US
Consulates
Egypt, Hungary, UAE
Embassy Offices
Korea, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden
Embassy Consular Offices
Italy, Poland
Honorary Consulates
Belarus, Brazil, Denmark, Japan, Slovakia, Spain
Commercial Offices
Austria, Czech Republic, Greece