Can the KDP adapt to change?

By Mufid Abdulla:

Elections to the Kurdistan's parliament are set for September 21st

Elections to the Kurdistan parliament are set for September 21st

The election season is looking intensive as all the parties set out their pitches, seeking to shift the political map of Kurdistan in their favour. The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is fretting about their appeal to the people of Suli and Erbi because it is failing to ignite the enthusiasm of aspirational voters.

One of the compelling aspects of recent Kurdish political history is how our society was shaken up by civil war in the 1980s and 1990s and the political geography has been transformed as a result. The political map we see today is pretty similar to an older Badinan and Soran divide, with the Suli area in the south of Kurdistan more defined by a legacy of political turmoil and armed struggle, between the factions in the Kurdish movement as well as against Iraqi dictators.

Whether we are naturally inclined to the KDP in its political clothing, or suspicious of it, the south of Kurdistan has been shaped by the power of the KDP and by Barzani family rule. The KDP and Barzani have led governments and shared power with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for 23 years, since Saddam left the south of Kurdistan. One defining feature of the KDP is its resistance to change or, as Michael Oakeshot put it, a preference for: “The tried to the untried, fact to mystery”.

This is true ever since Barzani senior set up his party in 1946. The KDP’s love of power and family rule are symptoms of its moral weaknesses. Some of their leaders, such as Idres Barzani and Masud Barzani, have been drawn to extreme and treacherous measures. For example, in 1979, the KDP provisional leader Idres Barzani supported Khomeni’s Islamic supreme council when it attacked the Kurdish movement in Iran. And, in 1996, the current KDP leader Masud Barzani – desperate not to lose Erbil – cooperated with Saddam to regain control of that city from PUK forces.

Against this background, I would like to ask the reader: how can it be possible for the KDP to accept any challenge to the status quo as an outcome of this election? Can the KDP adapt to changes it has previously feared and resisted?

Today the south of Kurdistan has many more voting men and women. South Kurdistan is undergoing great transformation, economically and socially, and this is shaping the character of our people. Kurdish history since the 1960s is rich in armed conflict and civil war, rather than reform and peaceful political upheaval, partly because of the Barzani family’s long domination of the Kurdish movement. Recently the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) prime minister Nichervan Barzani told an audience that the KDP needs to adapt to social and political change.  However, the KDP today is advocating only self-advancement and the selfish preservation of wealth for their leaders and followers.

The electoral battle, in which the KDP hopes to maintain its power and grip on society, has revealed anger and dissatisfaction – shown by the frequent protests in the Erbil – with ordinary people asking: for how long will these people cling to power?

Today we watch the KDP writhing in uncertainty about their relations with Baghdad and other issues linked to the destiny of this nation. Today the KDP has become the hub for corrupted politicians, including MPs that act for the party in parliament. People’s changing perception of the two ruling parties might yet produce an effective social revolution at the ballot box. But, in that event, will the KDP respond rationally and sensibly, without resorting to chicanery and force to reverse the result?

Copyright © 2013

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