PUK Internal Feud Weakens its Capacity to Lead

Bafel Talabani (left) and Lahur Talabany (right) at a PUK gathering in June 2021

By Arian Mufid:

Talabani had a heart attack in Baghdad in December 2012 and subsequently  passed away on 3rd October 2017. Since then the PUK, having lost its captain, has been like a ship without direction. The passing of the PUK leader has left behind a dangerous vacuum of leadership. Mr Jalal Talabani’s departure was the end of an era for his party. But for Kurdistan, it may just mean more of the same. On the 8th July this year, the PUK co-leader Bafel Talabani claimed that other PUK leaders had poisoned him and that he had the evidence. The Talabani family are basically controlling the party mechanism and directing the Party machine in the territory which they control. But I find rising levels of discontent, especially among people who are PUK supporters or who might sometimes vote for them. Complaints include tax rises for ordinary people while big companies can avoid them if they are partners with the PUK trade machine. The rise in prices for commodities and increased unemployment and the Party’s interference in the market and controlling of all sectors of economy has killed almost all kinds of competition. The judicial system is not neutral and there is a lot of interference by the political leadership. The two sons of Talabani never had any opportunity in the party apparatus inside Kurdistan whilst their father was alive.

The PUK leadership has not capitalised at all on Jalal Talabani’s legacy for the last few years. Instead, they have weakened the party through massive corruption and increased inequality affecting ordinary people. Support for the party has continued to decline. The current PUK leadership cannot deliver party unity. The PUK is long overdue a proper conference to select a coherent and robust leadership to unify the party and root out corruption. The PUK is being divided and ruled by powers who do not share its values and are hostile to its interests, and are aimlessly sniping at one another. The party should not be run by the family but by the senior cadres of which there are still a few with real leadership qualities. Unless something changes drastically, it won’t be so long before experts will write obituaries for the PUK. As a senior PUK veteran said, if the organisation cannot get rid of the corruption and hypocrisy within its ranks, its days are numbered.

The PUK needs to go back to its original people who so wholeheartedly, honourably and nobly sacrificed themselves, unlike the likes of current leaders Lahor Talabani or Bafel  Talabani. The PUK used to be an organisation of social democratic structure. It is not meant to be a family run organisation or a family business. There are still leaders inside the PUK to solve the current crisis and take the party to the next stage: such as Osman Haji Mahmood and Adnan Mufti. These leaders are not corrupted and can lead and save the party from destruction. Both Osman Haji Mahmoud and Adnan Mufti are the most courteous people inside the PUK organisation.

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