Tag Archives: Kurdistan Government

After many false dawns, Kurdistan finally forms new government

Just shy of 7 months since the Kurdistan Parliamentary elections in September. An agreement to form a new government was finally reached. After shifting of the political landscape and breaking the status quo, forming a government was always going to be difficult and protracted, but even by this token the lengthy delay was a disappointing blemish for Kurdistan.

Throughout the past few months, there have been many false dawns. Only last week there was growing hope that an inclusive government incorporating all the five main parties would be formed. Less than week later, this proved to be a false expectation as the political picture took another twist but at least a government will now be formed.

KDP and Gorran announced an agreement for a new coalition government along with the Islamic League (Komal). Crucially, this left the PUK on the sidelines with the official line that the PUK is still mulling over it options but clearly the PUK would be disappointed at developments with its options now to swallow pride and accept what it is given on the table or declare its opposition.

The Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) also remained undecided on its participation in the new coalition government.

Either way, the prospect of a parliament session reconvening next week is a welcome boost for Kurdistan just days before the Iraqi national elections and Kurdistan provincial elections.

In democracy, any political party has its ups and downs and the idea of pleasing every party is a non-starter.

If the cabinet is going to be divided in manner to appease all parties then why hold elections in the first place? Why would a political party care if takes a blow at the polls if it is able to secure its desired number of positions anyway?

This is particularly true of the PUK who finished third in the elections. The PUK must now regroup, change its strategy and win back lost voters. This is the trace of a true democracy and happens in every major western country. The PUK remains influential but cannot cling on outdated strategic agreements or demand an equitable distribution of posts.

As for Gorran, participation in the new government completes a remarkable transformation. They stood for change, for transparency, for reform and for a different Kurdistan. A substantial number of voters signed up to their manifesto, but can Gorran now deliver?

Playing the opposition or running a joint government are different matters. Politics can be very fickle and Gorran is now in a position where it can continue its ascendency or find itself in the opposition shadows come the next election.

Gorran has been the given the platform to implement change and its election programme with the ministries it has secured. It has secured the vital ministries of Peshmerga, Economy and Finance, Trade and Industry, Endowment & Religious Affairs, Chairmanship of the Investment Board as wells as the speaker of parliament.

Control of the Peshmerga ministry was vital for Gorran. Historically the Peshmerga forces have been dominated by the KDP and PUK. In fact the PUK still has strong influence over security, even if its voter base has dwindled. Gorran can now play a leading role in creating state security forces.

The KDP and Gorran have agreed on a set of principles that bodes well for Kurdistan. Timely and measured implementation of these reforms is now vital. A bold and encompassing strategy should be matched with real action and not just rhetoric and lengthy implementation

With Kurdistan holding its first provincial elections in eight years, this will further placate changes in the Kurdistan political landscape.

Changes in legislature mean that provincial councils will have more power. As such provincial elections have taken on much more significance for Kurds than the Iraqi national elections that are unlikely to result in any real change in Baghdad from a Kurdish perspective. This is demonstrated by election campaigns throughout Erbil focusing on candidates securing provincial votes.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

With cabinet formation, Iraqi national elections and Kurdistan provincial elections, April set to prove a crucial month for Kurdistan Region

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.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Growing hope of elusive government formation in Kurdistan as the PUK internal crisis intensifies and endangers stability.

As the Kurdish public grow increasingly frustrated and impatient at the lengthy delay and protracted negotiations around government formation, there were recent signs that the deadlock can be finally broken.

The onset of 3 strong parties was unprecedented in Kurdistan’s democratic experience. Although, this is an encouraging sign of political and democratic maturity, this new ground brought with it new challenges.

As with any political or social landscape, the situation will constantly change and as such politics will have to follow suit. Finding a compromise on government formation has been difficult but this has been made even more difficult as the region and political parties became accustomed to new norms.

This is particularly true of the PUK. Since the tragic illness to their leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, they have struggled to agree a common roadmap and way forward. It has been evident ever since the first notable split, when Gorran was formed in 2009, that there was increasing disagreement and disunity with the ranks about the future and strategy of the party.

However, as long as a constructive and reconciliatory tone is maintained, evolution and vigorous debate over the future of the party can be healthy. It is a sign of changing times and adapting to the new local and regional climate. After all, no party or political leader can expect that the policy and approach of yesterday can merely continue indefinitely.

PUK’s internal instability has accelerated in recent weeks with a growing media war. The decision to postpone the party elusive party convention caused rifts to deepen among its main council leaders Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, Kosrat Rasul and Barham Salih. Salih resigned soon after the postponement of the party convention and was particularly vociferous in the need for reform in the aftermath of the disappointing parliamentary elections.

Amidst the growing rifts in a major political party and an emboldened Gorran on the scene as the second largest party, the recipe for prolonged political wrangling and delays was there. How difficult would discussions on a wider level be if the PUK did not have united front at home?

After 20 or so rounds of talks around government formation, there was a glimmer of hope that concord was finally struck. Gorran would relinquish role of Deputy Prime Minister to the PUK, accept the position of parliament speaker and would symbolically attain the post of Interior Ministry.

The position of interior ministry would be a coup for Gorran especially as it means they can play a more pivotal role in government affairs and upholding their election manifesto, and can oversee security forces that they allege lean to the major parties.

The PUK internal struggle harms Kurdish stability in the region and Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani warned the security of the region and the stability of Sulaimaniya was a red line. The KDP can play a vital role in soothing cracks in its ally.

The situation is not helped that in spite of diluted seats, the PUK has sway over most of the security forces in Sulaimaniya province. No doubt that even some of these security forces have allegiances to Gorran and also sentiment towards certain party leaders within the PUK.

So what does all the internal party rifts and constant delays in forming a government mean for Kurdistan. For a start, if the Kurds are not united at home, how can they be united away?

The Iraqi national elections are fast approaching and with the continued illness of Jalal Talabani, it is not clear who the Kurds will even propose for post of President. Distribution of posts amongst the Kurds in Baghdad could well be another item of contention.

With continued clouds over Kirkuk and disputed territories, a new sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites, and the continued stand-off over oil exports, Kurdish disunity will greatly harm their greater goals.

The need for a united approach in external affairs is evident in the different stance towards Syrian Kurdish autonomy. The PUK and Gorran have publicly supported the onset of autonomous cantons in Kurdish areas whereas the KDP have refused to recognise the new administration. In such a case, what is the official position of the KRG?

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Failure to form new cabinet threatens to harm Kurdish interests home and broad

The results of the Kurdistan legislative elections of 2013 changed the political dynamic of the region. The PUK-KDP dominance of the political arena was broken by the onset of Gorran as the second largest party with 24 seats. This placed the PUK into a difficult predicament with their diminishing influence as they claimed 18 seats.

For decades, the political cake was split roughly down the middle between the KDP and PUK as part of their strategic agreement. Now, faced with a new reality, the PUK has found it difficult to relinquish its partner status in government and historical control of Sulaimaniya province especially to its arch rival, Gorran.

In turn, this has placed the KDP in a difficult dilemma. The KDP cannot maintain its strategic relations and carry the PUK and at the same time appease Gorran and other opposition groups that have risen in ascendancy at the polls.

The PUK still holds considerable influence over security forces even if their political showing has been diluted. It is not ready to play second fiddle and relinquish political eminence where it previously enjoys several key ministries.

However, at the same time, any political accord that doesn’t place the electoral weighting of each party and the election outcome at the forefront of discussions is a setback to the political will of the people.

The PUK decline at the polls has coincided with the illness to their leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. In many ways, the PUK has struggled to adapt to the new political realities and evolve its strategy. Internal friction is one of the reasons the PUK has found it difficult to agree on a common position on cabinet formation.

It has been trying to convene the party’s forth congress since the last elections in Kurdistan but this was recently postponed. Prior to holding its 4th General Assembly, it has announced that Talabani will be replaced by a three-member council consisting of PUK Deputy Secretary General Kosrat Rasul, Second Deputy Secretary General Barham Salih and Talabani’s wife Hêro Ibrahim Ahmed. This will help alleviate the leadership debate that has intensified since the last elections, but does not provide the long-term remedy needed.

Distribution of ministry posts was never going to be easy with a key debate around the role of Deputy Prime Minister contested by both Gorran and PUK. The solution is to seemingly create 3 deputy positions for each main party but this brings with it other drawbacks. Gorran, whose stock has risen since 2009 as the PUK’s rival, was not about to accept a stronger PUK hand in the cabinet, having attained more votes.

Even in an opposition mode in a future government, Gorran would have a significant influence on political proceedings that may hamper the passing of laws that the KDP cannot ignore.

A national unity government may be in the best interest of the Kurdistan Region but it has led to months of wrangling and accusations amongst parties over the failure to reach an agreement. Such is the stakes of cabinet representation on a regional level that Iran has tried to exert pressure to ensure PUK retains relative standings.

Kurdistan is going through a crucial juncture amidst a reviving war between Baghdad and Sunni militants that threatens the security of the Kurdistan Region, fast approaching general elections in Iraq and heated debates between Erbil and Baghdad over national budget and exporting of oil via Turkey.

Solidarity, compromise and agreement are important to serve the interests of Kurdistan and its people aside from any partisan interests.

Such delays affect the confidence of the people who set out in their millions to cast their vote. At the same time, it places parliament in great limbo.

At the upcoming Iraqi national elections, Kurdistan must strive for unity especially in Kirkuk province and to maintain leverage in its many disputes with Baghdad.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc