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Nechirvan Barzani was sworn in as new president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region

The parliament of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region has sworn in Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the region, as its president, in an attempt to complete the formation of the cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

On Monday, 52-year-old Barzani, who is deputy leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the nephew of former Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, was inaugurated by the regional parliament, which selected him as the president last month.

On May 28, he had managed to win 68 votes from the 81 lawmakers present in the 111-seat chamber.

Iraqi President Barham Salih, Speaker of the House Mohammad al-Halboosi and some other Iraqi officials attended the swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

The younger Barzani is filling the most powerful regional office, vacant since 2017 when his uncle resigned following a failed independence bid. During the vacancy period, the president’s powers had been divided between the prime minister, parliament and the judiciary in a makeshift arrangement.

Back in September 2017, the KRG defied stern warnings from the central government in Baghdad and several other states, and held a referendum on separation from mainland Iraq. Kurdish officials said a majority of people had voted ‘Yes’ to secession.

In response, Baghdad called the vote “unconstitutional” and adopted a series of bans against Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region.

Iraqi forces also responded to the move by reversing the territorial gains the Kurds had achieved during the military campaign against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Nechirvan Barzani has become the second president of Iraqi Kurdistan after 72-year-old veteran leader Masoud Barzani. The latter is the only other person to have held the office since it was created in 2005, two years after the US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

On Tuesday, Masoud Barzani’s son, 50-year-old Masrour, will likely be nominated as the prime minister of the cabinet. He is a member of the leadership of the KDP, which won first place in a parliamentary election eight months ago.

Masoud Barzani is still the head of the KDP.

The Kurdistan region does not have a formal constitution, having failed to ratify it in parliament since it was drafted in 2009.

The KDP’s main rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), boycotted the parliamentary elections held in September last year. The two parties were foes during the Saddam era, but agreed to share power in the region since the US-led invasion.

The two, however, have been at odds since last year over the allocation of posts in the regional government. Iraqi president is a leading figure in the PUK.

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