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

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

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 rise of Gor­ran as the se­cond largest party with 24 seats. This placed the PUK in a predica­ment with their in­flu­ence di­min­ished to 18 seats.

For decades, the po­lit­i­cal cake has been 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; hand­ing over its his­toric con­trol of Su­laimaniya prov­ince to its arch ri­val, Gor­ran, has proved par­tic­u­larly galling for the party.

Of course, this has placed the KDP in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, too. The KDP can­not main­tain its strate­gic re­la­tions and carry the PUK while at the same time ap­peas­ing Gor­ran and the other op­po­si­tion groups that have risen to promi­nence.

The PUK still has con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence over the se­cu­rity forces, even if their po­lit­i­cal power has been di­luted. It is not ready to play se­cond fid­dle and re­lin­quish sev­eral key min­istries.

How­ever, any po­lit­i­cal agree­ment that fails to give the elec­toral weight­ing of each party and the elec­tion out­come top billing on the agenda will pose a def­i­nite set­back to the po­lit­i­cal will of the peo­ple.

The PUK de­cline at the polls has co­in­cided with the ill­ness of their leader, Iraqi Pres­i­dent Jalal Tal­a­bani. In many ways, the PUK has strug­gled to adapt to the new po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties and to 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 elec­tions, but the event was re­cently post­poned. Prior to hold­ing its 4th Gen­eral As­sem­bly, it an­nounced that Tal­a­bani will be re­placed by a three­mem­ber coun­cil con­sist­ing of PUK Deputy Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Kos­rat Ra­sul, Se­cond Deputy Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Barham Salih and Tal­a­bani’s wife, Hêro Ibrahim Ahmed. Al­though this will help al­le­vi­ate the lead­er­ship de­bate that has in­ten­si­fied since the last elec­tions, it will not pro­vide the long-term rem­edy that is re­quired.

The dis­tri­bu­tion of min­istry posts was never go­ing to be easy with the cru­cial role of Deputy Prime Min­is­ter con­tested by both Gor­ran and the PUK. The cre­ation of three deputy po­si­tions, one for each main party, may seem like a so­lu­tion, but it brings other draw­backs with it. Gor­ran, whose stock as the PUK’s ri­val has risen since 2009, is not about to ac­cept a stronger PUK pres­ence on the cab­i­net, given that it won more votes.

Even in op­po­si­tion mode in a fu­ture govern­ment, Gor­ran would have a sig- nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on po­lit­i­cal pro­ceed­ings that could ham­per the pass­ing of laws; this is not some­thing the KDP can ig­nore.

A govern­ment of na­tional unity may be in the best in­ter­ests of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, but it has led to months of in­ter-party wran­gling and mu­tual ac­cu­sa­tions over the fail­ure to reach an agree­ment. In­deed, the stakes are so high on a re­gional level that Iran has tried to ex­ert pres­sure to en­sure the PUK re­tains its rel­a­tive stand­ing.

Kur­dis­tan now finds it­self at a cru­cial junc­ture amidst a re­viv­ing war be­tween Bagh­dad and Sunni mil­i­tants that threat­ens the se­cu­rity of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, the fast ap­proach­ing Iraqi gen­eral elec­tions, and heated de­bates be­tween Er­bil and Bagh­dad over the na­tional bud­get and ex­port­ing oil via Turkey.

Sol­i­dar­ity, com­pro­mise and agree­ment are im­por­tant if the in­ter­ests of Kur­dis­tan and its peo­ple are to be served in­de­pen­dently of any par­ti­san in­ter­ests.

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

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

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