With cabinet formation, Iraqi national elections and Kurdistan provincial elections, April set to prove a crucial month for Kurdistan Region
The formation of a new government and the distribution of ministerial seats to please all parties amidst the breaking of a long-established status quo and a power shift were never going to be easy. The KDP were the clear victors at the polls, but it was the escalating political battle between Gorran and the PUK that proved to be an Achilles heel.
The PUK is already suffering internal strain and a power struggle and has failed to accept Gorran as a stronger power after decades of PUK domination of the Sulaimaniya province and a strategic sharing of power with the KDP.
Crucially, there is growing momentum that the next cabinet will be an inclusive government that will include the five main political parties that won the most votes in the Kurdistan legislative elections. That is at least one positive prospect from the growing frustration over the political stalemate.
It would have been easy to form a majority based government but the KDP in particular encouraged the participation of the PUK and Gorran in the new cabinet to strengthen the Kurdish hand in the region.
In recent weeks, there has been a growing danger that the PUK would boycott the government altogether. In fact rhetoric between the PUK and KDP slowly turned sour as parties blamed each other for the failure to form the government. The rift highlighted that the KDP was not will- ing to unconditionally propup its former strategic ally. It would turn to Gorran if necessary to spearhead the next government.
According to recent speculations, the KDP will receive the interior ministry, in addition to the ministries of natural resources, education, municipalities and planning. Gorran is to receive the ministries of Peshmerga, finance, trade and religious affairs.
The ministry of Peshmerga was crucial for Gorran as it tried to exert influence on security forces historically dominated by the KDP and PUK.
Meanwhile, the PUK is to assume the post of deputy prime minister after Gorran relinquished this post as well as the ministries of culture, higher education, reconstruction and health.
The speaker of the parliament is to be given to Gorran with the deputy speaker from the KDP. The Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) and the Islamic League (Komal) will also receive some ministries with minority groups also receiving some posts.
The Kurdistan provincial elections will be a crucial litmus test for the Kurdish political landscape. It may well underline the demise of the PUK in the Sulaimaniya province. In the light of this, Kurdistan government formation could have logically concluded after the provincial elections when the local factors were clearly on view.
Of course, such delay has been aggravated by the fact that the Iraqi elections are taking place simultane- ously. The cabinet formation stand-off has been in the middle of a fierce dispute between Kurdistan and Baghdad over oil exports and the national budget. It is vital that the Kurds have a strong united hand in Baghdad and as such a cabinet formation ahead of the Iraqi national elections is of symbolic importance as they fight for a strong voice to protect Kurdish interests.
A weak Kurdish position in the post-election Iraqi cabinet formation period will greatly dilute Kurdish goals of protecting the region against growing centralist policies as well as the overall development in the region.