Up­com­ing Kur­dis­tan elec­tions set to spark shift in po­lit­i­cal hori­zon

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - Se­nior U.K. Ed­i­tor

Kur­dis­tan is no stranger to hold­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions since it was free from the clutches of Bagh­dad, but the leg­isla­tive elec­tions set for 21st Septem­ber 2013 pro­vide a dif­fer­ent flavour for a num­ber of rea­sons.

The elec­toral cli­mate is tense, the pas­sions are as elated as above, the stakes are high for the po­lit­i­cal par­ties in­volved but above all else it is the un­cer­tainty at the polls that is most in­trigu­ing, plac­ing Kur­dis­tan at a crit­i­cal junc­ture.

The tense bat­tle for the 100 seats on of­fer (11 are re­served for mi­nori­ties) is set to change the po­lit­i­cal land­scape of Kur­dis­tan.

This is due to a num­ber of fac­tors. Firstly, in an un­prece­dented step, the rul­ing par­ties will run on sep­a­rate lists sway­ing from their tra­di­tional power– shar­ing agree­ments. This is a pos­i­tive step for the demo­cratic evolve­ment of Kur­dis­tan and means that the KDP and PUK have to fight their own re­spec­tive cor­ners, the strength of both sides will be clear to gauge and ul­ti­mately no side will need to “carry” the other.

The sec­ond key area is whether the Change Move­ment (Goran) can bet­ter the 25 seats it man­aged to achieve in 2009, par­tic­u­larly at the ex­pense of the PUK in their tra­di­tional Su­laimaniya strong­hold. Jock­ey­ing for votes in Su­laimaniya prov­ince has been as fierce as 2009 and the out­come will trans­form the des­tiny of ei­ther party. Fi­nally, elec­tions will be held un­der a semi-open elec­toral sys­tem.

Kur­dis­tan finds it­self with a new and ex­pec­tant gen­er­a­tion who are harder to ap­pease and de­mand more from the gov­ern­ment. The gov­ern­ment has been un­der pres­sure to tackle cor­rup­tion, pro­vide re­forms, im­prove pub­lic ser­vices, en­sure trans­parency and af­ford more op­por­tu­ni­ties for the youth. The elec­tion bat­tle will hinge on un­de­cided vot­ers - have the rul­ing par­ties made good on their prom­ises in the last 4 years and made enough progress on well-doc­u­mented ar­eas of im­prove­ment and if the vot­ers be­lieve oth­er­wise, are they con­vinced that Goran can take Kur­dish pol­i­tics to the new level?

The ad­vent of a strong op­po­si­tion party was a boost for democ­racy in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion. The par­lia­men­tary ses­sions may have been much tenser, squabbling more com­mon place and po­lit­i­cal agree­ments less straight­for­ward, but Kur­dis­tan needed the an­gle of po­lit­i­cal rivalry and less cer­tain de­ci­sion mak­ing. A firm op­po­si­tion also ups the po­lit­i­cal ante and en­sures rul­ing pow­ers are not com­pla­cent.

How­ever, de­spite the lofty elec­toral goals they have set, doubts re­main whether Goran can step up from an op­po­si­tion force to a new force ready for gov­er­nance and leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity.

The cur­rent elec­tions will also be unique for the un­cer­tainty not just be­fore the polls but also long af­ter it. This makes coali­tions, com­pro­mises and ne­go­ti­a­tions all the more del­i­cate. It is un­likely that any party will as­sume enough votes to form a gov­ern­ment alone.

The Is­lamic par­ties, who at­tained 10 seats in 2009 are likely to in­crease on this fig­ure. Al­though, much of the talk of fu­ture gov­ern­ments has resided on the rul­ing par­ties and Goran, the seats of the Is­lamic par­ties will pro­vide a key an­gle to the po­lit­i­cal makeshift of par­lia­ment.

The KDP may still at­tain the most votes with a core sup­port base in Duhok and Er­bil and with their dom­i­nant mark on the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and strate­gic map of Kur­dis­tan, but it will need to work with the PUK or Goran in form­ing a new gov­ern­ment.

Due to wider spread of seats, even a coali­tion be­tween the PUK, Goran and other op­po­si­tion forces to form a new cab­i­net can­not be dis­counted.

With­out the fig­ure­head of their his­toric leader, Jalal Tal­a­bani, and the safety net of the KDP, the PUK is most ex­posed and the elec­tions may well prove a turn­ing point for the party.

When the num­ber of seats is more bal­anced and dis­trib­uted more tightly, this makes fu­ture coali­tions more frag­ile and may lead to po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity. The idea of a gov­ern­ment that in­cludes all par­ties makes sense on pa­per but will be dif­fi­cult to main­tain in re­al­ity. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Goran and the rul­ing par­ties since 2009 has hardly been a rosy af­fair.

No mat­ter the elec­tion out­come, politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal par­ties must not lose per­spec­tive of their ul­ti­mate duty of serv­ing Kurds and Kur­dis­tan.

Po­lit­i­cal com­petive­ness, dis­agree­ments and ten­sion is fine to a cer­tainty ex­tent, but it must not jeop­ar­dise unity or weaken the Kur­dish hand in an al­ready volatile re­gion. Kurds have much left to achieve at home and abroad, nar­row-minded party in­ter­ests must not com­pro­mise the Kur­dish hand at a crit­i­cal his­tor­i­cal junc­ture for Kurds and the Mid­dle East.

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