April will prove to be a pivotal month for Kurdistan. Campaigning is well underway for the Kurdistan provincial elections as well as the Iraqi national elections on 30th April 2014. Meanwhile, there is a renewed sense of optimism that the disappointing 6 month deadlock over government formation will be finally broken this month ahead of those elections.
This view was affirmed by Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani who expressed optimism that the 8th cabinet would be announced before the upcoming elections.
The onset of a new government in Kurdistan will end a bitter stalemate that threatened broader Kurdish interests in Baghdad and the region.
The formation of a new government and the distribution of ministerial seats to please all parties amidst the breaking of a long-established status quo and a power shift were never going to be easy. The KDP were the clear victors at the polls but it was the escalating political battle between Gorran and the PUK that proved to be achilles heel.
The PUK is already suffering internal strain and a power struggle and has failed to accept Gorran as a stronger power after decades of PUK domination of the Sulaimaniya province and a strategic sharing of power with the KDP.
Crucially, there is growing momentum that the next cabinet will be an inclusive government that will include the five main political that won the most votes in the Kurdistan legislative elections. That is at least one positive prospect from the growing frustration over the political stalemate.
It would have been easy to form a majority based government but the KDP in particular encouraged the participation of the PUK and Gorran in the new cabinet to strengthen the Kurdish hand in the region.
In recent weeks, there was a growing danger that the PUK would boycott the government all together. In fact rhetoric between the PUK and KDP slowly turned sour as parties blamed each other for the failure to form government. The rift highlighted that the KDP was not willing to unconditionally prop-up its former strategic ally and would turn to Gorran if necessary to spear-head the next government
According to recent speculation, the KDP will receive the interior ministry, in addition to the ministries of natural resources, education, municipalities and planning. Gorran was to receive the ministries of Peshmerga, finance, trade and religious affairs.
The ministry of Peshmerga was crucial for Gorran as it tried to exert influence on security forces historically dominated by the KDP and PUK.
Meanwhile, the PUK was to assume the post of deputy prime minister after Gorran relinquished this post as well as the ministries of culture, higher education, reconstruction and health.
The speaker of parliament was to be given to Gorran with the deputy speaker from the KDP. The Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) and the Islamic League (Komal) will also receive some ministries with minority groups also receiving some posts.
The Kurdistan provincial elections will be a crucial litmus test of the Kurdish political landscape. It may well underline the demise of the PUK in the Sulaimaniya province. In this light, Kurdistan government formation could have logically concluded after the provincial elections when the local factors were clearly on view.
Of course, such delay was made difficult by Iraqi elections taking place at the same time. The cabinet formation stand-off was in the middle of a fierce despite between Kurdistan and Baghdad over oil exports and the national budget. It is vital that the Kurds have a strong united hand in Baghdad and as such a cabinet formation ahead of the Iraqi national elections is of symbolic importance as they fight for a strong voice to protect Kurdish interests.
A weak Kurdish position in the post-election Iraqi cabinet formation period will greatly dilute Kurdish goals of protecting the region against growing centralist policies and as well as the general development of the region.