The demonstrations and public outcries that have gripped the city of Suleimaniya have now entered well over two months, now one of the longest across the whole of the Middle Eastin recent months. While the events have dominated the streets, parliament and various media, the current downward spiral in affairs threatens to serve as a destructive aspect in the Kurdish socio-political horizon, rather than the significant milestone in the Kurdish national renaissance that it deserves to be.
Escalating violence on the streets and the current reprisals by the security forces is a one way ticket to local and regional doom for all ofKurdistan.
For a region destructed by decades of repression and neglect, the developments and achievements in the Kurdistan Region over the past twenty years have been remarkable. However, Kurdistan desperately needs a new passage of evolution, a new emphasis on stability, modernisation and the building of bridges across all parts of Kurdistan.
The need for reform in Kurdistanis not a secret. Kurdistan needs reform, economic liberalisation, a new direction and an injection of political vibrancy to prevent the current experiment becoming stale and counter-productive.
All sides, including the ruling parties, have openly admitted the new for reform, to fight corruption, bureaucracy and to shake-up the current system. What is now needed is a clear plan of action on exactly how this will be done and more importantly to what extent this will be done. Saying change or reform is required is one thing, a clear scope for this programme with timescales, objectives and measurables is another.
This reform can only be achieved via the formation of independent committees that oversee the implementation of the whole process.
While recently there was some promising signs that the current deadlock could be broken through round-table negotiations with all political parties present, escalating clashes between protestors and security forces and more conflict in parliament has seemingly widened the gap between both camps.
As protesters ignored a ruling last week by the authorities banning demonstrations, further clashes are more likely at this stage than any period of peace.
At the heart of any attempt to break this deadlock must be compromise. If the political parties have a real and genuine desire to break this impasse then compromise is of paramount importance. Gorran movement in particular has a golden opportunity to seize the initiative by negotiating with the ruling parties and to be seen as a constructive political force inKurdistan. After all, the goal of any opposition is ultimately to attain power. However, this can only be done by showing political might and building a popular support at the polls. This can not be achieved by refusing to back down on any of their 22-point demands, walking out of parliamentary sessions or by fuelling instability in Suleimaniya.
The demands of the protestors are legitimate –Kurdistan needs change, economic liberalisation, decentralisation of governance and security forces and a new political direction, but the demonstrations have clearly been politicised. Protestor demands are often a step more than the opposition demands to give an impression of more leniency from Gorran but essentially the two are inter-twinned.
One of the key stumbling blocs has been the opposition’s insistence on dissolution of the government before the setup of a transitional government and finally national elections.
Both the KDP and the PUK have issued a number of statements dismissing the need for an interim government, which they say has no constitutional grounding.
On this note, the burning question is whether the incumbent powers can instil the much needed change that protestors demand and the opposition try to deliver from a political perspective. Regardless of who remains in power, this crisis can only be resolved by every party becoming involved in the initiative and working together with a genuine desire for reconciliation and resolution.
Clearly, the call for new elections is a welcome step but if no reforms have been commonly agreed, planned or implemented or the region continues to become overshadowed with instability and uncertainty then new elections may in fact exasperate the situation.
Whether it is conducted by the existing government, who after all were elected by a majority less than two years ago or by an interim government, the constraints and key objectives remain the same. Regardless of a reshuffle, all parties must sit together to agree a reform package, timescales and measurable factors for its implementation.
Reforms and the shape of such packages must be well in advance of any elections. The voices of the people never lie and therefore the elections will soon show just which political party has the common support or the mandate to rule once more.
Politicians in Kurdistan, regardless of the party affiliation, are in place for one reason and one reason only. They are elected by the people to serve their needs, demands and their state. At this critical juncture, the political parties must be the ones looking to fight for the votes of the people and looking to get the upper hand through the polls. This is why the role of the opposition, if used affectively, can never be underestimated. It puts pressure and a checkpoint for the government, which in turn should result in the ruling parties upping the ante to remain in power and maintain their support base.
However, while the ruling parties clearly have their own deficiencies, it is far from clear how affective the opposition parties would be in power. Can they make a great difference to the political arena?
It’s easy to forget the many of the current political actors within the opposition have been a part of the problem. They have been a part of the onset of the current predicament in Kurdistan in one form or another. They can not now assume that they are saints and all others are the real sinners.
At the end of the day, this is not about KDP, PUK or Gorran, this should only be about Kurds and Kurdistan. This is the only reason why any political party should have any remit to operate.
Kurdistan has already been divided by imperial powers, but the Kurds seemingly persist to divide themselves into even further pieces.
What has become evident in recent weeks is that the further the instability and political gulf increases, the more the polarisation of Kurdistan ensues. As events have unfolded, there have been some signs of cracks even with the ruling parties and the ruling alliance.
Only this week Barham Salih, the current Prime Minister of Kurdistan, apparently offered to resign his position claiming that “the current leadership of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is not able to go along with the new situation”.
One of the reasons the dissolution of the current government has been staunchly rejected may well have been on the part of the PUK. With their seats dwindling significantly from the last elections, the loss of a key leadership position has become a red-line.
Furthermore, with the proviso that elections will be contested by individual parties and not alliances, the PUK may come out weaker once more. The KDP may currently share power on the surface, but they are calling the shots and it knows as the undisputed majority that they may essentially be ‘carrying’ the PUK.
While the PUK may have dwindled politically, it does not mean that its military might dwindled exponentially. Therefore, this will create an intriguing dilemma for the security forces, if Gorran continues to rise at the polls filling any vacuum left by the PUK. If Gorran controls the governance but the PUK the streets, it’s a sure bet of more violence and conflict in the future.
Any reform or change will not happen overnight, but the steps to implementing the necessary changes can. For example, before any reform measures are taken, the security forces that have open fired on protestors, protestors that used weapons, those responsible for highly regrettable crime of burning and looting of Nalia TV, those forces that have attacked journalists and the media, must come to justice.
Clearly, before the politicians get to work on creating a brighter future for Kurdistan, the debris from the current fall-out must be unconditionally, unambiguously and impartially cleared.