Tag Archives: PUK

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

The implications of the PUK-Gorran deal on the Kurdistan political scene

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

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

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.

New political climate must not compromise Kurdistan

Let’s embrace the new democratic beginning in Kurdistan, not allow our historical disadvantages resurface.

With escalating tensions between Change Movement and PUK a real danger – further disunity, a historical Kurdish failing, will only handicap the Kurdistan Region and benefit Kurdish rivals

The unprecedented elections in the Kurdistan Region in July of last year, with the newly established Change Movement (CM or Gorran) winning a credible 25 seats in the Kurdistan parliament and for the first time installing real opposition in Kurdistan, was hoped to usher a new chapter in the Kurdish democratic experience.

CM was widely regarded as a movement reflecting the will of sections of the Kurdish population for reform, more transparency in government and better services. Either way, previous arch-rivals the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) had to battle side-by-side to win a majority at the election.

Whilst the region has been clearly dominated by the KDP and PUK since 1992, CM serves as a real challenge to the established elite in the region and a democratic phenomenon with popular support must be protected and indeed embraced as it should help raise the bar in Kurdish politics and it least in theory lead to a stronger region with the seeds of a more healthy democracy.

Escalating tensions

CM, headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa, was essentially formed as a result of bitter disputes within the PUK where Mustafa was a long-time senior deputy. As such CM posed the biggest danger to the Sulaimaniya province, a traditional bastion of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

While any talk of a political demise of the PUK are premature, who clearly still command significant following, the rise of CM posed a direct threat to the future standing of the PUK and increased weariness ahead of national elections.

The acrimonious departure of Mustafa and the subsequent emotive political jostling in the Sulaimaniya region, has naturally led to a rise in tensions. CM has alleged that political motives have been behind a spate of attacks on its members in recent weeks, a claim which officials have strongly denied.

Tensions between the once avid allies have been heightened by verbal attacks firstly by Talabani who made a number of brazen historical accusations at Mustafa, with Mustafa issuing his own counter statement.

It is unclear at this stage whether CM is merely a direct competitor to the PUK or one that can become a more region-wide power that can also challenge traditional KDP strongholds.

Dangers for Kurdistan

The verbal attacks and negative media campaigns that have been common in recent weeks is a strong detriment to Kurdish politics and democratic evolvement.

Whilst healthy competition at the ballots was most welcome and credible opposition is just the tonic to reenergise regional development and reform, history has taught the Kurds the great dangers of disunity, fierce rivalry and political violence.

Negative media campaigns must end for the benefit of the greater Kurdistan region as the Kurds enter a crucial year in their political existence with upcoming Iraqi national elections and a number of bitter disputes with Baghdad including status of Kirkuk, oil revenues and national budget.

The new dawn in Kurdish politics in the aftermath of the regional elections should not herald a negative era but one in which politicians and the established elite must rise to the challenge by evolving and winning over disgruntled supporters.

CM was not just a political group but for many a symbol of a popular desire to revitalise politics in the region. The group won a significant portion of the parliamentary seats and whilst they may not direct sway new legislation, it acts as a pressure point for the ruling parties.

On the back of this, the recent statement by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani is a welcome tonic that should led to protection for CM but above all else preserve stability in the region. Negative media campaigns within Kurdistan between entities can only lead to one thing – negative media campaigns abroad for the whole of Kurdistan.

Significance of Iraqi election on Kurdistan

The Iraqi election in March of 2010 serves as an important gauge for the stability and the recent hard-won security gains, especially in light of the anticipated withdrawal of US forces in August of this year. However, the elections have just an important bearing on the political platform of Kurdistan on the back of the recent regional elections.

With CM running on a separate list, it once more highlights competition against the KDP-PUK headed alliance but now at a national level. The key battle ground will once again prove to be between the PUK and CM in Sulaimaniya and to a lesser extent in Kirkuk, where any significant electoral loss by the PUK will undoubtedly increase pressure on party leaders.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with competition and political jockeying, increased hostility between political rivals in Kurdistan will no doubt see the Kurds suffer at a crucial historical juncture.

Interestingly, the national elections will be run on an open-candidate system. With the PUK weakened by the advance of CM, this means that if voters choose to back more KDP candidates, then this will serve as a fresh blow to the PUK.

With CM claiming to win 20 seats at the national elections, the party hopes to reinforce their support and thus by the same token their rivalry in key Kurdish hotspots.  

All this marks a tumultuous time for Talabani if the PUK is seen to fare badly at the polls in his bedrock province of Sulaimaniya.

External actors

A long running handicap of the Kurds has been a lack of unity in recent history. This has been undoubtedly stoked in the past by weary neighbours and their governments keen to check Kurdish power by manipulating Kurdish differences.

Once again, tense political climate in Kurdistan may well be played by sides looking to diminish Kurdish power.

The short-term glee of Kurdish adversaries would be nothing short of seeing a destabilisation of their region and the Kurds wasting their collective energy on individual vendettas.

Whilst the PUK may not be directly involved in any violence against the CM, it should do all it can to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice for the sake of the PUK and the Kurdistan Region, not to forfeit blame in recent controversy.

Rising expectations

The Kurdistan region has come along way in less than two decades with increased stability and economic leverage. However, this relative rise in prosperity is coupled with growing expectations of the people, predominately amongst the youth.

While the nationalist card of the established elite in Kurdistan is still a strong beacon, demands and disgruntlement of the youth has arguably spurred CM support.

This by no means is a signal of a greater political revolution in Kurdistan, not just yet anyway. But it does mean that there is now direct pressure for results and change. This must come with increased accountability in government, more transparency and an independent judicial system,

The Kurds must ensure that the new political climate does not compromise Kurdistan in anyway. The Kurds can be politically divided, but the national interests of the Kurds should always be at the top of their manifesto. After all, they are all essentially working towards the same goals – preserving and enhancing Kurdish interests, which the people have voted them to perform.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Online Opinion, eKurd, Peyamner, Various Misc.