Iraqi Kurdish party nominates Barzani cousins for top political spots

Critics say Kurdistan nepotism deepening as Nechirvan and Masrour Barzani climb political ladder

FILE PHOTO: Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station during parliamentary elections in the semi-autonomous region in Erbil, Iraq September 30, 2018. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani /File Photo

Iraqi Kurdistan's leading party has nominated Nechirvan Barzani for the presidency and Masrour Barzani as prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Nechirvan is the KRG's current prime minister, while Masrour has been heading the region's security and intelligence for six years - they are respectively the nephew and son of Kurdistan's former president, Masoud Barzani.

Masoud Barzani - also the current leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) - stepped down after 12 years as regional president in November 2017, less than a month after helming a referendum on Kurdish independence that backfired and triggered a crisis between Iraq's Kurds and Baghdad.

The post has remained vacant since, with the president's powers divided between the prime minister, parliament and the judiciary in a makeshift arrangement.

In September, Massoud Barzani's KDP won 45 of 111 seats in the Kurdish assembly - 11 shy of an outright majority, and will have to govern in coalition. The KDP's historic rival and junior coalition partner in government, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was in second place with 21 seats.

The announcement on Monday sparked a flurry of activity on social media, with some critics calling out the region's "tribal politics".

"It appears that Masoud Barzani has ensured some sort of power-sharing between the two men," Abdulla Hawez, a journalist and expert on Kurdish affairs, said on Twitter.

Negotiations should soon begin with the PUK and Goran to pave the way toward cabinet formation.