Grow­ing hope of elu­sive govern­ment for­ma­tion in Kur­dis­tan as the PUK in­ter­nal cri­sis in­ten­si­fies and en­dan­gers sta­bil­ity

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

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?

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