The recent agreement between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Change Movement (Gorran) serves to shake up the Kurdish political scene from a number of angles.
The once unthinkable deal was declared a win-win by both sides but highlighted the difficult state of Kurdish politics as it traverses through a highly sensitive juncture in its history.
Gorran broke away from the PUK in 2009 and this new agreement feels more like a reunion after a bitter divorce. Gorran’s rise was all about shaking up the political scene and promoting a populist agenda that sought to the break duopoly in Kurdistan.
But although Gorran commands a respectable number of seats in parliament (24), it has witnessed the limitations of populist movements and working in the shadows of KDP-PUK. Gorran has limited influence over the things that really matter such as security, foreign relations and finances.
PUK on other hand has been navigating through its own crisis in recent years especially in light of embarrassing ballot defeats to Gorran and a leadership crisis as their long-time leader Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.
PUK was essentially been carried by the KDP and thus it’s traditional counter-weight role to the KDP was lost.
The KDP have been uncontested leaders of Kurdistan political scene ever since PUK went to decline and Gorran, although a popular party could do little more than work as an opposition force and a nuisance in parliament.
Therefore, it was unsurprising that the PUK-Gorran deal was met with great skepticism by the KDP. They see it as a union to undermine their strong hand in Kurdish affairs.
As the PUK and Gorran vowed to enter the 2017 elections on the same ballot, it simultaneously ends the old strategic alliance between the PUK and KDP. The KDP currently holds 38 seats in parliament as opposed to Gorran which has 24 and PUK 18. In other words, PUK-Gorran alliance would become the biggest bloc, unleashing a scramble for seats from Islamic Parties.
The Islamic Parties find themselves in a strong position as wild-cards. They will insist on range of demands and then have the task of choosing either the KDP or PUK-Gorran.
The PUK-Gorran deal will inevitably serve to dilute KDP influence and grip on Kurdish affairs but things in Kurdistan are never that easy. The KDP will play its own strategic cards in face of the changing political scene.
Whilst the PUK-Gorran deal will help break the current political deadlock in one way or another, it also threatens to intensify the old dividing lines between KDP and PUK administrations and stoke a new phase of disunity.
At the same time, such disunity will open the doors for Turkey, Iran and other powers to take advantage through meddling in economic, military and strategic ties.
Either way, the matter should not be about what is best for KDP, PUK or Gorran. This is not merely a game between political parties for the top positions or score settling between the respective party leaders.
It ultimately has to benefit the Kurdish people and that of Kurdistan. Anything less than, will serve as a great setback to Kurdistan at a sensitive stage in its history.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc