Tag Archives: KDP

Kurds must look within to secure future

Kurdistan is crossing through a unique and sensitive juncture, yet lack of unity is threatening to hamper the region at a crucial time.

With Kurdistan at war with the Islamic State (IS), experiencing unprecedented economic crisis, and housing nearly two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in an increasingly volatile region, the challenges are already high.

However, the constant bickering between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Change Movement (Gorran), at this vital time undermines Kurdish goals and aspirations.

The Kurdistan government took just shy of seven months to form in 2014 after Kurdistan parliamentary elections in September 2013, underscoring the fragile makeup of the coalition cabinet.

Deep divisions over the state of the presidency, protests in October 2015 that turned violent with KDP offices getting torched and the subsequent prevention of parliament speaker from Gorran, Yousif Mohammed, from entering Erbil, culminated in the political standoff that remains today.

There have been various attempts to find a political breakthrough but the political parties have mainly blamed each other for the stand-off and lack of progress.

Kurdistan Region President, Masoud Barzani, recently urged political parties to kick start negotiations to resolve the current deadlock. The president urged the political parties “to solve the current crisis…activate the parliament and elect a new presidency,”

However, Barzani stressed that “it is not possible for those who have been the source of the crisis, remain in the chair of the parliament.”

The deadlock has seen a threat of a return to the dual administration of the past with KDP on one side and PUK and Gorran on the other. There has been notable differences in their respective approaches to working with Baghdad, relations with Ankara and Tehran, policies on Syrian Kurdistan region, handling of oil revenues and budgets and even moves towards independence.

Gorran’s suggestion of governorates establishing direct relations with Baghdad would merely intensify these divisions in Kurdistan and would undermine the hard fought Kurdish gains.

The new initiative by President Barzani is a welcome step to thaw tensions and end the deadlock. However, giving the likely nature of a slow process of compromise and with legislative and presidential elections set for 2017, Kurdistan may well have to wait for next elections to achieve a breakthrough.

Kurdish parties cannot afford to focus on short-term measures to bridge divides. Greater unity, especially outside of Kurdistan borders, should be a red line if Kurdistan wants to achieve its long-term dreams.

The new historical passage for the Kurds amidst the unravelling Middle East places Kurdistan into a dominant strategic position and ever closer to independence.

However achieving statehood, the dream of all Kurds, is a lofty task if the region itself cannot find greater unity, a shared vision and a long-term strategy when it’s facing grave security dangers and economic crises.

The imperial powers had already tainted Kurdistan by forcefully dividing and annexing the Kurdish regions to neighbouring states; however, Kurds are not helping themselves with further divisions in the respective segments.

Kurds are already looking across to see how the United States President-elect Donald Trump could benefit the Kurdish position. But with globalization on the decline, a new anti-establishment mindset in the US, rising Russian influence and the European Union braced for right-wing revivals, the world is braced for more change and unpredictability.

As history has proven, Western interests will always be through the narrow lens of their governments. At the same time, Kurds should not expect Baghdad, Ankara or Tehran to come running to solve their economic crisis or defend their region.

A polarized Kurdistan, faced with economic difficulties, increasing social unrest and political deadlock will only undermine the Kurdish position.

These unique historical junctures do not come often. After suffering for decades under repressive regimes and a second class status, Kurds are in a position to rewrite their own destiny. This is an opportunity that they dare not waste.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Kurdistan first, all else second

While it was never officially announced until recently, it was always widely acknowledged that KDP Vice President Nechirvan Barzani would take over from incumbent Barham Salih and head the next cabinet as Prime Minister. Not only does Barzani’s highly anticipated return mark the end of a 2-year political chapter but it also comes at the beginning of a highly crucial year for Kurdistan.

In many ways, Salih had a tough two years in office. Almost as soon as he was appointed, he was severely disadvantaged with the dilution of PUK power and the emergence of Gorran as a major rival in traditional PUK strongholds This meant that while the power-sharing agreement between the KDP and PUK in theory remained evenly split, it was anything but that in reality and it effectively ensured there was little chance of the PUK securing the full four-year term at the helm.

After the last elections, KDP took centre stage in the Kurdish political arena and was clearly the most influential component of government. With the imminent return of Barzani, hope and expectations have already been greatly shifted. This is based on Barzani’s positive track record in his last term in office but also at a crucial juncture for Kurdistan, the expectation of the Kurdish people are at an all-time high. His appointment also serves to bolster the strength of government. After all he will be head of cabinet and representing the strongest political party in Kurdistan.

Barzani’s challenges are two pronged. On the one hand, appeasing Kurdish expectations at home and secondly, ensuring Kurdistan makes the strongest possible benefit in the greater region and with Baghdad.

Challenges within Kurdistan

2011 was a turbulent year for the Kurdistan Region but one that despite a number of drawbacks could propel Kurdistan to greater heights. As witnessed with the demonstrations last year and general public sentiments, the Kurdish people are growing frustrated and impatient whilst some historic Kurdish handicaps become resolved.

Corruption is still a persistent thorn in the side of Kurdish politics, as is government hegemony over the economy and employment with lack of a thriving private sector, bureaucracy and public services that are in need of investment and improvement.

The Gorran Movement was in many ways a by-product of Kurdish emotion and the advent of real opposition in Kurdish government only added to the credibility and standing of Kurdish democracy. Although there are signs that Gorran is too evolving to become a more affective component of the political arena, at times it has shown political immaturity at achieving its goals.

Kurdish people generally acknowledge that Kurdistan has made remarkable progress in a short period of time, but this is no excuse for politicians to rest on their laurels and take their vote for granted.

The only reason any politician or political party is in power is because they have been given a mandate by the people. As long as the idea of serving the national interests comes first, Kurdistan can only continue to grow and evolve.

However, it’s widely accepted by all sides that Kurdistan is in need of reform on a number of levels and without this Kurdistan will only be dragged into the future as opposed to racing at full speed.

On the topic of serving the people, comes accountability and transparency. The politicians must live and breathe around the very people they have been appointed to serve. They must hear the people on the ground and actively heed public sentiment. How can politicians serve Kurdistan if there are simply out of touch with the people and the situation on the ground and enjoying a life that must ordinary Kurds can only dream of?

Diversify the political powerbase is one significant prelude to ensuring that future voting outcomes cannot be taking for granted. This means that unless political parties raise the bar and deliver even higher, the people may place their votes elsewhere (as long as they deem that there worthwhile and credible alternatives to place their vote). In this regard, it would be beneficial for Kurdistan to ensure that the PUK and KDP no long server on a single list. Having more parties with political clout will allow for greater compromise amongst parties and facilitate a broader more inclusive government.

The shape of the next cabinet

Barzani may not have officially assumed his post but has already got to work and marked his intention to other political players by assuring that “our door is always open.” One of his key goals was to build general consensus and understanding with all political parties. Barzani declared, “We will be happy to have a broad-based government for the next cabinet… it is the duty of all of us to try and work to serve this country and its people”

So far the fruit of Barzani’s endeavours have been productive but there is no certainty that the new cabinet will necessarily be all inclusive. Most opposition parties have stated their willingness to work with Barzani and that could only be good news for Kurdistan but under specific conditions, which will signify the new cabinet’s appetite for change and appeasing opposition groups.

Gorran’s final take on joining the new cabinet will likely depend on their sense of reassurance around the reform packages that they have previously agreed with the government.

However, an all-inclusive cabinet is not the be all and end all for Kurdish politics. You don’t have to be on the same cabinet to be on the same page.

Gorran can serve as an affective opposition and play its key role of ensuring the evolution and reform of Kurdistan without formally been a part of the cabinet.

What matters is a national consensus amongst all parties and an eagerness to set aside their differences for the sake of Kurdistan. All political parties have the responsibility to answer to the people that have voted them in power and deep personal or ideological rifts must be set aside.

Without a common basis amongst the ruling parties and opposition, it is almost certain that months and years will tick away without any real progress. It is one thing to agree on reform and make positive intentions and it’s another to deliver the reform package in a timely, measurable and transparent manner.

The regional view

Reform and political evolvement will ultimately benefit the people, improve standards of living and fulfil the growing expectations of the people. However, it will also put Kurdistan on a much stronger footing in the greater region and internationally.

Kurdistan is at a highly sensitive point and one that one will determine how Kurdistan will be shaped in years to come.

It is still part of a largely fragmented Iraq that is underpinned by deep animosity. It is still part of the same Iraq that still has many unresolved disputes with Kurdistan and on the brink of a new civil war.

The Kurds have played the patient waiting game on issues such as disputed territories and national hydrocarbon law, while Baghdad has shown little enthusiasm to implement constitutional articles that ultimately serve to enhance the status of Kurdistan.

In the greater region, Kurdistan is becoming ever engulfed in power tussles between neighbours in a fast changing strategic picture. Kurds in Syria, Turkey and to a lesser extent Iran are at the forefront of changing dynamics in the Middle East.

Kurds in these parts of Kurdistan are also at sensitive crossroads and ubiquitously look to the Kurdistan Region as a big brother.

This means firstly, that Kurdish political parties must work as closely and as united as ever no matter their differences in solidifying and protecting Kurdish interests and secondly, that Kurdish leaders must make delicate and difficult decisions to ensure they safeguard Kurdish interests outside of the Kurdistan Region.

As with the example of Baghdad, the Kurds should not feel compelled to constantly resolve bitter feuds in Baghdad and become dragged into the middle of frequent sectarian and political clashes, whilst much of their demands have been sidelined.

The Kurdish quest should be about strengthening Kurdistan and not Baghdad. The basis for Kurdish support in Iraq and beyond should not be unconditional, but come at an advantage to Kurdistan.

Ankara and Baghdad need Kurdistan more than ever, and after historically getting the raw end of the deal from both these sides, it’s about time the Kurds drove a hard bargain.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc.

Placing the events in Kurdistan within context

The winds of change that have swept across the Middle East have been nothing short of remarkable and a breeze of fresh air in the decades of poisonous policies, repression and social stagnation that has suffocated the people.

It is easy to forget that only 20 years ago, Kurdistan was subject to the same barbaric rule and wide scale suffocation under the oppressive Baathist regime. Great credit must go to the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan people for their bravery, determination and the largely bloodless manner in which they have arisen and orchestrated their phenomenal social revolutions.

In the midst of the great hysteria that has been created by alarming developments in Suleimaniya where week-long demonstrations have resulted in 3 dead and over 100 wounded, the situation in Kurdistan has been blown out of context.

The idea that the current Kurdistan regime should be assessed in the same breadth as the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan dictators who have ruled with an iron-fist for literally decades is wide of the mark.

This fact is not designed to hide, diminish or obscure the reality that Kurdistan is in need of significant reform, or to conceal the corruption, nepotism or centralisation of the economy and the media that has plagued the development of Kurdistan.

There is a fundamental basis for the propagation of evolution in the Kurdistan Region but any notion promoting revolutionary uprising lacks perspective. There is no denying that Kurdistan needs change a clear plan for reform and the politicians need the right tonic for accountability, pressure to deliver and transparency in their work.

Kurdistan is need of a more liberal economy, independent judicial system, more independent media, more accountability and less bureaucracy.

However, the notion that Kurdistan is undemocratic and that the people live under an authoritarian cloud is simply mustered by people wishing to greatly diminish Kurdish advancement and a strike a blow at their strategic goals.

While the Gorran Movement has clearly been a welcome development in the Kurdish democratic experience, providing the first real opposition in parliament, great responsibility falls on them as well as the ruling parties.

If Gorran can instigate the reform and addressing of the deficiencies that have been highlighted earlier in this article, then this will be nothing short of a positive contribution and a milestone for the Region. But Gorran, who has an undoubted support base, must also take full accountability that their strong statements calling for the dissolving of the government and questioning the impartiality of the security forces amongst others are simply unproductive.

Gorran accepted the outcome of the elections in 2009, so if the elections were so badly plagued and do not reflect the will of the majority, why then wait until now to renounce the elections? Furthermore, the elections were orchestrated under heavy monitoring and international observation and were in the main deemed fair and representative elections by the various bodies.

Unlike other countries in the region, the people had a number of parties to choose from and a number of candidates to select in the presidential race.

Any show of people on the streets, be it in the tens, hundreds or thousands, must be taken seriously and by no means is the protests in Suleimaniya to be taken lightly. Peaceful protests are an important way for people to be heard and the government must take stock of their demands. Furthermore, the actions that resulted in the deaths of three protestors must be investigated to the full extent of the law.

The ability of the people to peacefully protest and express their public discontent is one of the cornerstones of democracy. However, under any law especially in the UK and the US, demonstrations must not infringe the rights and liberties of others, induce vandalism or propagate violence.

The small group of demonstrators who turned on the KDP building in Suleimaniya were after only thing – mass controversy and publicity. Exactly who orchestrated this deviation from the mainly peaceful protests is open to debate, but clearly the intention was to manipulate these events to portray the government as barbaric and merciless towards any opponents of its rule. A regional hand in these affairs can not be ruled out – this form of instability and tension can play in the hands of many an adversary of the Kurdish region.

In light of a lack of evidence, claims and counter claims have been all too frequent. The events have clearly polarised opinion from anti-Gorran or anti-government. After the riots and attack on the KDP offices, the fires were inevitably stoked further with the burning of the Gorran buildings in the KDP controlled areas.

Security forces should have done all they can to protect the KDP building in Suleimaniya, whilst with the knowledge that Gorran offices would have become an evident target in the KDP controlled areas, those offices should also have been guarded.

The onus is now on the government to fully investigate all these events and show clearly to the people that as the ruling authority that they will not take any such matters lightly.

But clearly, the events in Suleimaniya are not reflective of the will of the greater sections of the Kurdish people. There were no demonstrations or uprising in the provinces of Duhok or Erbil.

Ironically, the KDP has little sway over the Suleimaniya powerbase which has long been administered by the PUK. Even then, the current administrative and political foundations in Suleimaniya have been contributed to by the Gorran movement. After all, they were directly or indirectly a technical and administrative part of the current setup for so long.  Through attacks on KDP office and subsequent reprisal attacks on Gorran offices, the aim by some elements was to turn the events into a national furore.

Unlike the recent events in North Africa, where the majority regardless of class or social background rose up, the events of the past week do not represent a national uprising.

Both the KDP and PUK still muster strong support and in the event of any future election they are likely to attain the majority of votes once again. At the present time, Gorran’s support is regional and not entrenched nationally. If Gorran rises as a political force due to a genuine and increasing support base, then this can only be embraced.

Above all the unfortunate events, it must not be forgotten that be it Gorran, PUK or KDP, that every party is empowered to serve the Kurds and Kurdistan. No party should work towards their own interests, but only for the interest of their people.

The current controversies, burning of political offices and endemic media attacks only serve the opponents of the Kurdistan Region.

No events in Kurdistan must detract from the importance of unity in Baghdad. Any discussions on internal shortfalls of the Kurdistan region in the Baghdad parliament will hardly be met with positive ears by Arab parties.

Without a doubt disunity has long been a Kurdish downfall. All the political parties must come together to enhance Kurdish goals and resolve current disputes with the Baghdad government including Kirkuk and oil sharing.

Many a Kurdish politician has taken the status of Kurdistan for granted. Kurdistan is still fresh in its existence and its foundations have yet to even dry.

The meeting of all the political parties with view to reaching consensus and common grounding is a positive development. Escalating tension and resentment is to the detriment of every side.

Kurdistan needs more moderates, balanced media and more of those who seek reconciliation. In addition to the highly regrettable deaths, the attack and burning of the NRT TV station after their coverage of events was most unfortunate.

Rogue elements who decided to take matters in their own hand to “punish” NRT, only paint a bad picture for the whole administration.

Those who claim that nothing has been achieved in Kurdistan for the past 20 years or so are short-sighted. Only 20 years ago, Kurdish lives were tainted with misfortune, suffering and destruction. Kurdistan was the long-time warzone of Iraq. It had no infrastructure and a basic economy, let alone any political representation or international recognition.

Progress in Kurdistan in the short time since liberation has been nothing short of remarkable. The ruling parties (including members that now constitute Gorran) have played a strong had in the gains and current status-quo. However, by no means should this represent an excuse to stagnate, to ignore the need for reform or not to evolve in the many channels required.

Any party that rests on their laurels and takes their power base for granted leads to degenerative politics, this is why the role of Gorran as a real opposition force is so important – it should ferment the right pressure and productive hand to ensure the governments improves and raises the bar in standards, for the benefit of the people and the Region.

Any opposition group is there to seek power, if Gorran want to win the next election then the onus is on them to entice the people with a clear manifesto and plans for reform. But the playing field is politics and affective campaigning, not means of sensationalism and mass controversy. Gorran must prove that they will not succumb to the same corruption and bureaucracy if they come to power.

In summary, no events should mask the fact that Kurdistan is need of great reform and evolvement, but the path towards this is through democratic channels and on the basis of propelling the interest of Kurds and Kurdistan, no one else.

Whether you are KDP, PUK or Gorran, your only remit is to serve the very people who have elected you. It is time for all these major parties to come around the table and prove to their citizens that they will do all they can for the benefit of Kurdistan, democracy and unity.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc.