Who will shape the political map of the South of Kurdistan?

Kurdistan parliament

Kurdistan Parliament

By Mufid Abdulla:

The political campaign for seats in the Kurdistan parliament has begun. For the second time since 2009, Kurdistan will go thorough the most intense competition between three main rivals – the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Gorran (a breakaway from the PUK).

But this election is different to previous ones because PUK founder Jalal Talabani is absent and cannot direct the party grassroots anymore. His illness looms over the whole PUK leadership. Despite such difficulties – and although it lacks modesty and impressiveness and is slipping in the polls – the PUK’s resilience should not be under-estimated.

The Gorran movement and its leadership have had a gruelling summer as their votes dwindled in the elections held in the disputed areas of Kurdistan, even allowing for the ‘summer of hysteria’ factor (with  the ongoing dispute between Erbil and Baghdad). Gorran’s internal elections provided a bit of a boost for the members but there is still significant disunity amongst the leadership, as shown by the party’s inability over the last four years to fully develop its structure and hold a general conference.

Gorran leader Nawshirwan Mustafa told his followers on Monday that he is still hoping to secure an overall majority. This is a critical time for him.  With Talabani removed from the scene, there could just conceivably be a change in Nawshirwan’s fortunes. He keeps telling his followers that his long game is geared towards getting into power but he has not yet provided the people with a clearly defined alternative.

Although Gorran has continually provided analysis – for example, on the implications of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) budget and its link to institutional corruption – it has not produced any blueprint of how they would deal with all the economic and social problems – the mismanagement of oil and gas revenues, unemployment, corruption, etc.  A miracle might happen that allows the party to take power, but this dream could probably only be achieved through a renewal of Gorran, with several of the former PUK leaders making way for some of the new, young blood that has joined the party.

Furthermore, Gorran’s main KNN TV station increasingly features pro- Islamic programmes, and the leader of the Gorran list, Youssef Mohammed, is a former member of an Islamic group. For the Gorran movement to make a serious bid, it needs to break from the past and set out, in a few clear promises, what it would actually do in power.

The KDP has a powerful machine. Its political strength is buttressed by oil money and its slice of economic growth in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan,  and you cannot underestimate this party’s ability to manipulate the election through ballot rigging. Masud Barzani as party head seems to model his rule on Robert Mugabe’s style of governing a country. By imposing himself as the ‘extended president’ of Kurdistan, Barzani creates the sense that his party is in short supply of politicians and there is no alternative to him.  But there are signs that the party is suffering from tensions between two undeclared factions – one led by the prime minister Nechirvan Barzani and the other by Masud’s son and security chief, Masrur Barzani. It is possible that this election will see the KDP lose a lot of seats, but not power.

The forces of the Islamic League and Kurdistan Islamic Union face a big challenge as some people are arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt almost destroyed the Egyptian economy and society and so why should they trust the Islamic movement here in Kurdistan?

Over the four years since the last election, inflation has grown and the gap between the poor and the rich in Kurdistan is now wider than ever.  During this period, one cost that was guaranteed to keep rising was petrol and oil prices – despite the fact that south Kurdistan sits on one of the biggest oil reserves in the world. Kurdistan has also fuelled the booming Turkish economy, at our own expense, with most of our imports coming from Turkey. To ordinary Kurds, when you ask them on the streets, it is a scandal to import milk, cheese, butter and bread from Turkey and that this nation cannot provide such produce from our own land and that our agriculture looks like it is dying. This nation needs drastic changes because the two ruling parties have corrupted the natural resources and fundamental nature of Kurdish society.

Remarkably, on Monday the price of one litre of petrol was suddenly cut from 1200 dinars to 500 dinars. So why was it 1200 dinars in the first place? And who can deny that this price cut has been made cynically, at the behest of the ruling KDP and PUK, as the election campaign hots up?

Copyright © 2013 Kurdistantribune.com

2 Responses to Who will shape the political map of the South of Kurdistan?
  1. Baqi Barzani
    August 28, 2013 | 17:05

    The brewing youths and new educated students generation supported by US and European countries. A complete reshuffling of system. Fresh minds ready to adopt and implement the 21st century ideas! All incumbent senior leadership in South with their tribal mindset and past background must step down if we wish to see real changes and an independent homeland in near future! An external force from outside penetrating and influencing Kurdistan’s domestic and foreign policy along with the already existing, embracing youths talents.

  2. Suleiyman
    August 30, 2013 | 03:53

    Goran is not a real rival power to KDP or even PUK, despite what it’s supporters want to claim. Gorran has been a major disappointment in that it did not live up to expectations of many who watched it come out in 2010. What rivals KDP and PUK is the opposition as a whole, but I don’t know why pro-Gorran intellectuals such as the author of this piece continue to picture thr opposition as mainly represented by Gorran. I think KDP and PUK have succeeded in marginalizing the opposition so far mainly because the different sects of opposition have done a good job of isolating each other. I wish the author here would have started the piece by a paragraph that shows the potential strength if one unified opposition. Don’t forget Hiresn had minimal influence in the Badinan region.

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